Scientific Breakthroughs

Get a Grip on Tough Subjects and Boost Learning With the Feynman Technique

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Richard Feynman, mindfulness
Photo shows Richard Feynman, taken in 1984 in the woods of the Robert Treat Paine Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Here is something quite useful especially for working professionals and students. Whether you want to learn something new, or need to deepen your understanding of what you know, an approach called the Feynman technique of learning can come in real handy.

The simple technique, named after Nobel Prize-winning American theoretical physicist Richard Phillips Feynman, can also help students easily absorb all that they are studying and get their desired marks during examinations.

The Steps

Here are the steps worth trying. First, pick a topic and begin studying it. Then jot is down in a piece of paper, as if you are speaking to somebody and teaching him/her about it. Verbalize it. That way, you can see which parts you really understand, and which has gaps.

Repeat the process, but this time around, use simplified language, or utilize graphic analogy to emphasize a point. You can keep revising your explanation until each element of the topic is crystal clear, accurate and free of jargon.

If you are able to explain an idea using simple language, it signifies your deep understanding of that subject. Using that thought as take-off point, students as well as professionals can adopt the Feynman technique of learning to better grasp technical subjects,

Indeed, regular individuals who take many hours relearning concepts and understanding seemingly tough subject matters need not compromise sleep nor family time. With the Feynman technique, you learn how to learn better. Many people who have tried it can attest that it is a powerful albeit simple way to heighten the results of learning in dramatically less time.

Learning the Science Behind Flow

Aligned with the Feynman approach to learning is the Flow State by author Steven Kotler. Using this approach, individuals can learn faster.  Even individuals bogged down by illness can try it. To hack into your state of flow, try the following steps:

  • Use your different senses. Engage multiple sensory streams, the way the Montessori education does to promote learning.
  • Take more social risks and get out of your comfort zone, speak out, and do it more often.
  • Make your study environment new and interesting. Switch your venue to somewhere new. The idea is to gain better focus, and increase your chances of entering the flow state.
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness. Having presence of mind lets the flow state thrive. Try simple meditation and other ways to create mindfulness.

Photo Source: Tamiko Thiel/Wikimedia Commons

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