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What, Why & When
Teaching is the best way to learn.
The Feynman Method, named after famous physician Richard Feynman, is a learning technique that builds on the idea that explaining a topic to someone is the best way to learn it. This approach helps us better understand what we are learning, and not just memorize technical terms. This way, we can more easily transfer our new knowledge to unknown situations.
- Obtain a profound understanding of any topic.
- Learn more quickly and with more depth.
- Become able to explain any given topic to anyone.
The Feynman method is a simple, circular process:
- Select the topic you want to learn more about. This can be something you need to learn for an exam, or something you are just interested in knowing more about. Don't go to broad - focus on a specific topic. You will not be able to explain "Economics" or "Physics" in one go.
- Find someone to talk to. Ideally, this person does not know anything about this topic. If you don't have someone to talk to, you can also just speak out loud to yourself, or write your presentation down. Start explaining the topic in simple terms.
- Make notes. You will quickly realize yourself which parts of the topic you are not able to explain, and/or have not understood yourself. You might feel bad for a moment, but this step is important - it prevents you from pretending to yourself that you understood everything, when in fact you did not. Write down what you do not understand sufficiently! If you get feedback on which parts you did not properly explain, write this down, too. Lastly, write down where you used very technical, specific terms, even if your audience might have understood them. Someone else might not, and you should be able to do without them.
- Have a look at your notes and try to find more information. Read scientific publications, Wikipedia entries or dedicated books; watch documentaries or YouTube videos - have a look at everything that may help you better understand the topic, and fill your knowledge gaps. Pay attention to the technical terms that you used, and find better ways to explain these things without relying on the terms.
- Now explain the topic again. Possibly you can speak to the same person as previously. Did they understood you better now? Were you able to explain also those parts that you could not properly explain before? There will likely still be some gaps, or unclear spots in your explanation. This is why the Feynman method is circular: go back to the second step of taking notes, and repeat until you can confidently explain the topic to anyone, and they will understand it. Now you have also understood it. Congratulations!
Links & Further Reading
The author of this entry is Christopher Franz.