Richard Feynman, one of the most famous physicists and a fast learner, employed a peculiar and very effective method for learning.
In his biography, the author James Gleick mentions this learning technique, which is now known as the Feynman Technique.
“He opened a fresh notebook.
On the title page, he wrote: NOTEBOOK OF THINGS I DON’T KNOW ABOUT.
For the first but not last time he reorganized his knowledge.
He worked for weeks at disassembling each branch of physics, oiling the parts, and putting them back together, looking all the while for the raw edges and inconsistencies.
He tried to find the essential kernels of each subject.”
According to blogger and computer scientist Cal Newport, the technique is to “translate your growing knowledge of something hard into a concrete form and you’re more likely to keep investing the mental energy needed to keep learning.”
How to employ the Feynman Technique
To get started with the Feynman Technique all you need is a fresh notebook and reference or study materials for the particular subject. It is highly recommended to dedicate a separate notebook for the specific skill or subject you want to learn.
Once you had the notebook and the study material, move to a distraction-free environment and follow these four simple steps.:
Choose your concept
Write the concept you want to learn in the top of a fresh page. The concept can be anything of your choice, from the solar system to the First World War. It will be beneficial to write down what you already know about the topic and things you don’t as you begin learning.
Pretend to teach the concept to a student
Explain the topic on the paper as if you are teaching it to someone. To simplify, explain it as if you are teaching the concept to a five-year-old. Thus you will get a better understanding of the parts you actually understood and wherever you might have some gaps in your learning.
Go back to books when you get stuck
If you ever find yourself stuck, not being able to recall or properly explain a certain part, then go back to the book or the source material. Learn it again till you can explain it better on the paper.
Simplify and use analogies
Use analogies to link the concept you are learning with something you already know. Connecting a new piece of information to existing ones in your mind has a lot of advantages. It will help you comprehend a concept better, as well as aids better memorization.
Photo by David Iskander