What Is the Feynman Technique for Learning?

October 25, 2019
Today we'll take a close look at the Feynman Technique, a method for studying, learning and teaching. It's very effective and helps students learn faster and better.

In short, the Feynman Technique is a simple method for self-directed learningIt’s a memorization technique that consists of five steps. Each step causes the brain to unconsciously assimilate the information it’s trying to memorize, little by little.

The technique carries the name of Richard Feynman, an American theoretical physicist who participated. Among other things, Feynman participated in the Manhattan Project. What’s more, he had experience in exactly what you can expect: Teaching himself complicated ideas.

Richard Feynman

At age 15, Feynman had already learned advanced algebra, trigonometry, differential and integral calculus, and more. Before entering college, he was already doing mathematical experiments using a method that involved his own notation.

He was a great theoretical physicist, receiving a Nobel Prize in 1965 for his theory on quantum electrodynamics. Furthermore, he was a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology.

As a professor, he was popular among his students. He was able to make them understand the most complicated theories of physics using simple and familiar language.

As a result, students came to understand the subject matter very well. And this gave way to the Feynman Technique, a study method that is applicable both to learning and teaching.

What Is the Feynman Technique for Learning?

There’s a different between knowing something and knowing the name of something. In order to understand something, we must be able to explain it in a brief and precise way.

According to the Feynman Technique and its focus on learning, if you can’t explain something to a child, you probably don’t understand it well. You only have a full understanding of something once you’re able to explain it briefly and precisely.

The 5 steps of the Feynman Technique

Choose the concept to learn or teach

The technique begins with clarifying and deciding the exact concept that you want to learn or understand. Then you must write the concept at the top of a blank paper. The more specific, the neater and more effective the rest of the learning process will be.

Develop the theme on paper

Using the simplest language possible, write an explanation of the idea. Do so as if you were teaching someone that isn’t able to understand the concept. It’s okay to begin with a broader summary and then become more and more specific.

Expressing the idea in general terms isn’t enough to fully demonstrate complete understanding. Rather, it’s just a starting point from which you can begin to work. In other words, it demonstrates the beginning of your comprehension.

Look for new knowledge

If you can’t explain the topic well, then go back to your paper and reread it. Investigate and go back to the basic material until your explanation seems more or less correct.

You can use any type of information you have available to you. For example, use interesting facts or images. Turn to your notes, books, and even things you find on the internet. Everything that helps you better understand the theme and obtain new knowledge is appropriate.

It’s important to develop this step thoroughly and complete the topic well. The success of the Feynman Technique depends on carrying out this step correctly and completely.

Document new knowledge and clarify it

As you acquire new knowledge, reflect upon and document it. Focus especially on how it has changed your understanding.

What Is the Feynman Technique for Learning?

The creation of images, conceptual maps, diagrams or anything that helps you clarify your own thoughts will be useful. In short, you’re trying to demonstrate – accurately and precisely – a more or less complete understanding of the concept that you’re trying to learn or teach using the Feynman Technique.

As your understanding changes, your demonstration of that understanding should also change. This will deepen your understanding of the theme and illuminate the learning process. This may lead to the learning of new topics as well.

Rewrite them as if you were teaching a child using the Feynman Technique

During this step, you’ll know if you’ve learned the information you wanted to memorize. To complete this step, you must take the information that you’ve developed and write it again. But, write it in a different way, using the simplest language you can. In other words, use everyday language.

Lastly, try to say it all out load, just as you would explain it to a small child. Any example you can use to help a child understand the information better will be useful.

By following the simple steps of the Feynman Technique, you’ll manage to increase your knowledge of any given subject from day one. What’s more, you’ll have the ability to explain your understanding to anyone in a clear and familiar way.

  • Gleick, James. (1993). Genius: The life and science of Richard Feynman. Vintage.