Procrastination is not the only obstacle students face while their studies. You can be not ready for your classes even if you spent the whole night reading what you were given. Nobody deserves to be in stuck after reading comprehensive information. However, this happens frequently. “If you cannot explain it simply, then you do not understand it well enough” or in other words “If you cannot explain it to a six-year-old, you do not understand it yourself” is the claim of Albert Einstein who was awarded the Noble Prize in physics. Whereas another physicist Richard Feynman who is also the Noble Prize winner proclaims a way (method) to do so. Feynman Technique is a very simple but very effective method that you can use while learning something new, trying to remember a theme, or preparing for exams.
There are two types of information (knowledge) and we often focus on the wrong type of information. The first type of knowledge is based on knowing the name of something, the second type of knowledge is based on knowing that thing. Of course, they are not the same things. One of the greatest factors behind the success of Richard Feynman in understanding the difference between knowing something and knowing the name of something. Feynman tells this distinction in this striking anecdote:
Can you see that bird? It is a brown-throated thrush bird which is called “halzenfugel” in Germany and “chung ling” in China, even if you know all the names given to it, you still do not know anything about this bird. The only thing you have learned is about people, how they call it. Now, this bird is singing, teaching her cubs to fly, and flying from the one end of the country to another for miles, and nobody knows how it finds its way.
As you can see here, knowing the name of a thing does not mean that you understand it. Do you really understand an idea or you know the definition of this idea, there is a way to test it. It is called Feynman Technique.
The Feynman Technique can be considered,
- To understand the issues/ideas you really do not understand
- To remember the issues/ideas you understood but forget during exams
- You can use it as an effective method of study before the exam. By using this method, you will be able to grasp deeply in a theme in a short period of time so that an idea will not be out of your mind for many years.
Let’s take a look at Feynman Technique now:
Step 1: Identify the Concept
Get a sheet of paper. Write the title of the topic you want to learn on the top of the paper.
Step 2: Explain it (to yourself in front of the mirror) as to someone who does not know the subject
Write down what you learned by avoiding using as many complicated expressions as possible to tell someone who is unfamiliar with the topic of the paper. If you use a language that is simple enough for a child to understand, it will also make you force yourself to understand at a deeper level and simplify the connections and relations within a topic. It will be much more effective to pronounce what you write concurrently.
Step 3: If you become struggled at any point, go back to your sources
When you find out that there are places you do not remember or are difficult to understand in step 2, go back to the resources you were working on. Read and study again until you are able to transfer what you learn to paper. Say, you have written about biology, and you have difficulty explaining evolution process in simple words. Open your biology book and re-read the part about evolution. Now close the book and write on a new blank sheet what you have learned about evolution. If you keep this stage running smoothly, you can keep working with your actual working paper.
Step 4: Simplify and Establish Similarities
Now we can look through the paper. Einstein’s “If you cannot explain it to a six-year-old, then you do not understand it yourself,” provokes simplifying your language and building similarities which will make it easier to understand instead of using a complicated jargon and making confusing explanations. Optionally: Find a six-year-old (or a person who has the intelligence like a six-year-old) and try to explain to them what you have learned. If it works then you have understood the topic.
This wonderful method not only makes it easier to learn and remember, it also allows us to rebuild ideas from the ground up by opening windows to different ways of thinking. It makes easier to understand ideas and topics more deeply. It is important that they approach the problems in such a way that we can understand what is the topic about.
Damar, E.(2016, November 15) Öğrenmeyi ve Hatırlamayı Kolaylaştıran Yöntem: Feynman Tekniği [The best way to learn anything: The Feynman technique]. Retrieved from http://www.garajimdakiejder.com/2016/12/ogrenmeyi-ve-hatirlamayi-kolaylastiran.html