Advertising
Advertising

Published on January 22, 2020

Learning Effectively with the Feynman Technique (The Complete Guide)

Learning Effectively with the Feynman Technique (The Complete Guide)

Effective learning is a subject that we cover extensively on Lifehack. And for that, we discuss a number of complicated theories that often take thousands of words to explain.

However, the Feynman Technique is one that’s so simple; even a kid would understand how to use it.

In this article, you will learn what exactly is the Feynman Technique and how you can use it to learn effectively.

What is the Feynman Technique?

The Feynman Technique is used to learn theories. Essentially, it’s used to memorize written material. This technique was developed by Richard P. Feynman, a Nobel prize winner who’s widely recognized as one of the most influential and iconic figures of his time.[1]

Although he was a brilliant scientist (hence the Nobel prize), he’s also known for his learning technique that makes the process extremely simple yet effective.

If you’re here, you’re probably wondering about how to learn with the Feynman Technique.

Well, it’s simple:

Explain what you’re trying to learn in the simplest of words and notice the gaps in your explanation.

Once those gaps are exposed, it’s easier for you to fill them up.

The power and effectiveness of this learning method reside in the ability to simply explain things. Although Feynman studied complex processes, he had the ability to explain them simply enough that even 12-year-olds could understand him.

Advertising

That’s why he was known as “The Great Explainer”.

The Trap of Sounding Smart

Let’s just agree to it:

We all love sounding smart.

There’s no better feeling for educated people than to sound like they know their stuff. But that leads to further complications at the time of learning.

When we’re so accustomed to using technical vocabulary, that’s how we explain a theory to ourselves while we learn it. This technical vocabulary gives us the false impression of understanding what we’re talking about.

Most of the time, our explanations have huge gaps that are covered with our carefully-chosen words. And the worst part, even we don’t realize the parts we’re missing. But if we were to sit down and dissect every line of our explanation, we’d notice that we’re missing a few pieces of the puzzle.

The basis of the Feynman Technique lies in simple explanation; meaning that we’re getting rid of all the useless jargon and trying to explain our concepts in a way that a 12-year-old child would be able to comprehend them.

When you try that, you notice that some of what you say probably doesn’t make sense, or that you’re jumping from one major point to another without having a clear idea of how the transition takes place.

Explaining simply and effectively is an art that takes time to master.

So while you’re at it, try to simplify your already-simplified explanation so you’re only exposing the concept underneath.

Advertising

How to Learn With the Feynman Technique

There are 4 parts to learning with the Feynman technique:

  1. Initial reading/studying
  2. Writing and explaining
  3. Noticing gaps and improper explanations
  4. Revisiting educational material

Let’s take a deeper look at it now.

1. Initial Reading/Studying

To start, you need to read the learning material extensively. I’m not talking about skimming through the words; you need to really get into it and read with this in mind that you’re trying to eventually memorize.

I find that reading for the sake of reading leads to lesser retention. So try to learn and retain while you read.

A lot of people think that explaining what you’re trying to learn comes after you’re done reading. But that often leads to poor understanding of the concept which forces you to reread the information.

Research suggests that rereading is an ineffective method of learning.[2] A good tip for learning with the Feynman technique is to explain each line as you read. This explanation allows you to clarify your concept along the way and afterward, focus on retention alone.

When you read the whole thing in one go and then try to clear concepts later, most of the information is lost in trying to explain and retain at the same time.

2. Writing and Explaining

Once you’ve read the text and explained it to yourself sentence-by-sentence, close the book (or tab) and take out a pen and paper.

Now, write down everything you know about the topic.

No matter what it is or how much sense it makes, just vomit all your information out and try to explain it in basic terminology.

Advertising

Remember: it’s extremely important to be clear in your explanation and use simple enough words that a 6th grader could understand you.

By convention, if a 6th grader won’t understand your explanation, it’s probably a bad one and you should work on further simplifying it.

You could also explain it to a real 6th grader… if they’d let you.

The major benefit of doing that is that you’ll see real-time reactions of what makes sense to an average person and what doesn’t.

3. Noticing Gaps and Improper Explanations

Now that you’ve written your explanation, take a second look at it and notice if everything makes sense.

Do the ideas flow right from one aspect to another? Are all aspects of the topic sounding crisp and thorough?

4. Revisiting Educational Material

If you’re like the rest of the human race, you probably messed up a few parts while you wrote. And so now, you should shine a light on those problematic parts.

Go back to your learning material and study again. This time, lay special emphasis on parts that you missed or messed up previously. This will allow you to use focused learning methods that can improve the retention of information.

The Biggest Benefit of the Feynman Technique

We’ve discussed the benefits of exposing your weak portions using the Feynman Technique. But one thing we haven’t focused on is what happens after those weak portions are exposed.

The biggest benefit of the Feynman Technique is that after the exposure of your weak points, you know what needs your immediate attention and what parts you can ignore while you re-study.

Advertising

This selective focus is what helps you retain the tricky parts that you always seem to forget.

Extended Applications in Decision-Making

Although the Feynman Technique is used for learning theory, I find its principles to be quite universal. And I have personally been using these principles in decision making.

I’ve stopped trying to over-complicate decisions or avoiding their explanations.

Whenever I face a problem, I take out a pen and paper and write down the explanation of my decision. I try keeping it as simple and blunt as I can such that a 12-year-old would understand the reason behind my choice.

A lot of times, I see that my explanations don’t make much sense or that they’re incomplete. I’m assuming that I know what I’m doing when in reality, I don’t.

Most of us aren’t willing to think too much about hard decisions since we’re afraid to face them. When they come, we think we understand them and their complexity and that we understand our actions and their consequences.

But if we focus on those decisions, dissect them and explain to ourselves why we’re taking them, we might end up taking better ones.

The Bottom Line

The Feynman Technique is an excellent method of understanding your decisions and fine-tuning stuff that doesn’t quite add up.

If you want to learn effectively, particularly complicated or difficult theories, the Feynman Technique is a very useful tool for you.

More about Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Joel Muniz via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

Delegating Work: What to Delegate and What Not to? How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1 7 Ways to Improve Your Management Leadership Skills The Importance of Delegating Leadership (And How to Properly Delegate) Why You Need Spirituality Goals To Enhance Your Life

Trending in Learning

1 9 Free Language Learning Apps That Are Fun to Use 2 13 Most Practical Skills to Learn Now (For a Better You This Year) 3 How to Learn Fast And Master Any Skill You Want 4 How to Learn Anything Fast? Take These 5 Powerful Steps 5 10 Reasons Personal Growth Is Important No Matter Your Age

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on May 13, 2020

9 Free Language Learning Apps That Are Fun to Use

9 Free Language Learning Apps That Are Fun to Use

Language learning apps are not only useful but also incredibly entertaining and fun. With our current ability to use language tools on the go, this is the golden age of language apps.

While they won’t replace real human interactions, language learning apps are an invaluable resource for learning the basics of a new language or for translating words in real-time.

There are hundreds of language learning apps being launched on a weekly basis, and it can be confusing to differentiate what’s useful from what’s not.

To help you save time, I’ve curated 9 free language learning apps that you should try and experiment with on your own.

1. Duolingo

    Duolingo is one of the most popular language tools out there. It’s perfect for beginners looking to dip their feet into learning a new foreign language. The site’s gamified approach to learning makes it fun to learn vocabulary, grammar, and basic words.

    Get the app here!

    2. Busuu

      Busuu offers a similar language learning experience in which you mix speaking, listening, writing, and reading activities. This helps you acquire a basic understanding of your target language.

      Get the app here!

      3. Babbel

        Babbel is an inexpensive and fun tool that uses algorithms to personalize your language learning experience. It is voiced by native speakers so you’ll also learn the proper pronunciations of words much easier.

        Get the app here!

        4. Ankiweb

          Anki has been around for a while, and its design is unique compared to other free language learning apps. It’s an electronic flashcard tool that makes it easy for you to remember phrases and words in a foreign language.

          Get the app here!

          5. Memrise

            Memrise is one of the leading platforms for memorizing anything. It’s mainly focused on language learning, but you can also use it to memorize words from certain fields and disciplines. You can use it to memorize vocabulary for your SAT exam, biology exam, etc.

            Get the app here!

            6. Tinycards

              Tinycards is an application launched by Duolingo. It’s a free and fun flashcard app that you can take on the go. You can choose from thousands of topics that have been created for you or create your own decks.

              Get the app here!

              7. Quizlet

                Quizlet is another free language learning app that offers more than learning language. It features free quizzes that help you learn just about anything. “Flashcards” is one of their most popular features, but you can also take tests, play games, or create your own quizzes to share with friends.

                Get the app here!

                8. Rype

                rype

                  Rype is a monthly membership site that connects you with fully-vetted professional language teachers for 1/10th of the price of a leading language school. Lessons are as short as 30 minutes, and you can schedule them at any time of the day, and any day of the week. For anyone with the desire to speak a foreign language fluently, Rype is worth checking out.

                  Get the app here!

                  9. Mindsnacks

                    Mindsnacks is another useful but also entertaining free language learning app. It offers fun brain games that you can play to activate your mind while also learning a foreign language. That’s hitting two birds with one stone!

                    Get the app here!

                    Final Thoughts

                    Learning another language gets harder as we age, but this shouldn’t stop us from trying. In fact, it’s much easier now to learn a new language because of the abundance of resources in our time.

                    So, check these apps out and try them for yourself!

                    More Tips on Learning Another Language

                    Featured photo credit: Debby Ledet via unsplash.com

                    Read Next