The Feynman Technique is a sequential process for understanding any topic in four steps. This technique rejects automatic search i.e., memorization in favor of true knowledge i.e., understanding. Information is truly learned when it can be explained to others.
Renowned physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman understood the difference between knowing something and knowing the name of something, and this was one of the main reasons for his success.
He invented the technique in the 1940s. In fact, he’s created a learning formula to make sure you understand something better than anyone else.
The Feynman Technique consists of four simple steps: 1) Select a concept, 2) teach the toddler, 3) identify gaps and go back to the original material, and 4) review and simplify.
History of the Feynman Technique
Richard Feynman is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who has made significant contributions to fields such as quantum mechanics and particle physics. He was also a pioneer in quantum computing and introduced the concept of nanotechnology. He was a renowned professor teaching at Cornell University and Caltech.
For all his accomplishments, Feynman considered himself a “hard-working, ordinary man.”
What made Richard Feynman not a natural intellect, but a systematic way of identifying things? He didn’t know and tried to understand them in and out.
Throughout his work and life, Feynman pondered complex concepts in the world of physics, sharing his insights into the process of distilling knowledge and ideas with elegance and simplicity. Many of these observations about his learning process have been summarized in what is now called the “Feynman Technique“.
The Feynman Technique is a speed learning concept that allows you to understand almost anything.
From computer science and product design to psychology and evolutionary biology, it’s important to have a framework for tackling puzzling problems in order to continually develop your skills and master new complex concepts.
The need for the Feynman Technique
If you try to explain a concept in simple terms, you’ll quickly find that you understand the concept well. Problem areas can also be identified quickly, as they are areas where you get stuck or resort to using complex language and terminology.
Learning by teaching is as evident as it sounds. Explaining something to someone who doesn’t understand all the jargon is the ideal way to ensure that you have a complete grasp of all the facts.
The entire Feynman technique is based on this phenomenon.
- Identify knowledge gaps
A key element of the Feynman technique helps identify where there are current gaps in knowledge. Those who confine their learning to only their heads often think they know the details, but when asked to explain the same details, the gaps become apparent and it’s too late.
Feynman’s technique recognizes early and quickly where these gaps are and how they can be filled with increased memory power.
- Improve communication skills
Understanding something in the head is one thing for a person, but communicating it to others is an entirely different skill. Studying with the Feynman technique not only fills knowledge gaps and deepens understanding, but it also strengthens your ability to communicate your knowledge to others.
- Encourage critical thinking
A key part of the Feynman Technique is critical thinking, which identifies knowledge gaps and fills them with the source material. We also need to find new and innovative explanations for tricky ideas.
All this put together is a powerful exercise in critical thinking. To look back on something and try to improve it. This ability is beautifully integrated into our daily lives.
Major Steps involved in Feynman’s techniques
The Feynman learning technique consists of four steps, based on the method originally used by Richard Feynman. After reflecting on our own experiences with this learning process, we made a few adjustments. Here are the steps:
1. Identify your topic
The first step in the Feynman learning process is to think of a topic you want to learn or test yourself to understand. Keep it as narrow as possible. A broad, abstract topic like “quantum mechanics” usually leads to a broad, abstract understanding.
Rather go down a few steps of the hierarchical ladder. Because if you are familiar with the basic concepts, you will have a better understanding of the overarching domain.
For example, instead of quantum mechanics, you might want to test your knowledge of one of the fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics, such as superposition, the uncertainty principle, or coherence.
Then write down everything you know about that narrow topic. As you come across new sources of information, add them to your notes.
2. Teach your child
If you can teach any concept to your child, you are ahead of the game. Start with getting a blank note and writing down the topic or subject you want to deliver.
Then, under that topic, write down everything you know about it. The trick, though, is to write clearly and simply. That way the child can understand what you are talking about.
Several points are considered in this step.
Simplicity: Children don’t understand the jargon and vocabulary-rich dictionaries. Science is full of complex terms, which made Feynman’s diagrams invaluable. His diagram shows what other scientists gave marathon lectures.
Fluency: Speaking without jargon frees us from hiding behind knowledge we don’t have. Bloated words and fluffy “business” language prevent you from getting to the point and communicating your knowledge to others.
Brevity: To keep a child’s attention, concepts should be explained as if you were presenting the idea of a business during a short elevator ride. Better reveal the concept before those doors open. Nor does the child have the capacity or mental capacity to understand anything beyond that.
If you’re having trouble getting your thoughts into your notes, it’s a sign that you can improve. Again, creativity helps you reach new heights in learning by teaching.
3. Identify knowledge gaps
The real learning begins here. Is something wrong? What have you missed?
By highlighting knowledge gaps, you can collect and organize your notes into a coherent story. Now you can refer to your source material lecture notes, ideas, etc. when you come across a question about your extent of knowledge on your topic.
If you don’t understand something, get back to the source material. Go back to the source material and gather the information that will help fill in the gaps. This step acts as a milestone in the best way to learn faster.
4. Organize + Simplify + Tell a Story
Start telling your story. Wrap up your notes and start weaving a story with a concise description. Summarize the most important pieces of knowledge about a topic. Practice reading the story aloud.
Pretend to talk to the students in the classroom. Hear where the language stops being easy. A stumbling block can indicate an imperfect idea.
Use analogies and simple sentences to deepen your understanding of the story.
This article, written by Feynman, summarizes the power of this technique. What began as a question about their own existence was translated into a sentence that even a junior high school student could understand.
“Everything is made of atoms. Tiny particles are in constant motion, and when pushed apart they attract each other, but when pushed together they repel each other.”
Feynman states that even if you don’t know anything about physical science, the core scientific knowledge you need to understand is that everything is made of atoms that validate the basic existence of the universe. Form your hypothesis in as few words as possible. Avoid clumsy and wordy language.
How to use Feynman Technique in your study?
The Feynman technique not only helps identify these problem areas of the concepts you are trying to learn but also provides a quick and efficient way to reinforce these areas through targeted learning. How to learn with the Feynman technique? It’s a simple technique, but if you put it into practice, you’ll learn more effectively.
Step 1 – Research
The first step is easy. In fact, if you’re reading articles about learning, you’ve probably already done so.
Just pick a topic and start learning.
Of course, this makes sense for educationally sound courses of study, but it works just as well for other skills, such as sports. Write down everything you know about a skill on paper. Break it down into its core components and try to understand it as a whole.
We will use the chess game as an example.
With that in mind, it would be easy to apply step 1 to learning chess. You should start learning the rules and basic strategy. Remember, you must have enough knowledge to teach others in Step 2.
Step 2 – Teach
Once the topic is fully covered, it’s time for step two. Teach others.
You can also teach an imaginary audience if you don’t want to teach someone in real life. However, the Feynman technique works better with real people.
They will provide feedback and let you know if anything is unclear. Ideally, the person you are teaching will ask questions and test you to find gaps in your knowledge base. It is necessary.
Continuing with our chess example, in step 2 you need to teach someone to play chess. You should be able to explain the purpose of the game, the rules, the movement of the pieces, and the basic winning strategy.
When students ask questions, they inevitably discover knowledge gaps, and unanswered questions. But that’s exactly what you want.
Step 3 – Fill in the gaps
As mentioned earlier, Step 2 exposes some knowledge gaps.
In Step 3, we return to study, but with a focus on these gaps. The goal of Step 3 is to remove these weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
What are the knowledge gaps identified in Step 2? If you couldn’t remember exactly how the pieces moved, how the rules worked, or why a particular strategy was effective, that’s a notable weakness.
Now you can go back and study exactly what you need to know: restore the rules and look for information on strategy effectiveness.
Step 4 – Simplify
Ideally, you should already have a much better understanding of aiming skills. However, we are not done yet. Here we have to simplify the content.
This step is very effective in building a cohesive understanding of the topic. It is very difficult to organize and explain something clearly enough for a small child with a limited vocabulary to understand.
To do this, you need not only a full grasp of information/skills, but also an understanding of how the different elements fit together.
FAQs on Feynman Technique (from Quora)
Q: Is there scientific evidence for the Feynman technique for learning?
A: The Feynman technique is readily available. What I can’t find is research done in a scientific way that tests the technology. It seems very difficult to analyze.
The 4 steps are very easy to use even if you are not a master so the best way to know if it works for you is to try it and see how it works for you I think it’s just a matter of checking if it’s effective.
Of course, if you’re looking for a good paper on teaching methods, this would be a great topic if you understand how to study it.
Q: Have you ever used the Feynman technique for learning? Did it work?
A: Feynman’s lectures on physics are highly regarded. David Wrixon Euring is someone who likes to mock the establishment of physics but fails miserably because he lacks the intelligence to criticize it.
Q: Which is more effective at learning, explaining concepts with the Feynman technique, or solving problems and exercises?
A: Studying is the most effective. Because when you learn to know something, it is very difficult to get it out of your head. It is very different from the reading that is normally stored in the temporal lobe.
It is very difficult to forget what you have studied. After learning and knowing, you can use the Feynman technique to keep your stress levels low, especially during exams.
Q: What are the most interesting facts about the Feynman learning method and why?
A: We cannot pretend to know how Feynman derived this concept. It’s based on the statement (Einstein never said this, but it’s a good story): “You can’t really understand something if you can’t explain it to your grandmother.” Learning Pyramid.
The idea is that regardless of how it came about, you must learn it yourself first. Ideally, you know all there is to know about something in order to teach it. This is an iterative process.
Learning involves using your brain. So far, what we know about the brain is fairly limited. Reading books for hours is not the best way to help your brain understand. Our brains contain billions of neurons, so we don’t think in a straight line.
Every action, decision, and thought involves multiple neurons that take action to make it happen.
Therefore, teaching, repeating, and explaining in simple terms engages more of the brain in the act of learning. The more creatively you learn, the better you understand and remember.
If you’ve always wondered how to learn complex things easily, the Feynman Technique is the answer. Keep learning, keep teaching, and keep simplifying.