DEV Community

Cover image for The Feynman Technique: Learn Quickly
Alex Hyett
Alex Hyett

Posted on • Originally published at

The Feynman Technique: Learn Quickly

I first learned about Richard Feynman when I was studying Physics at University.

He was a Nobel prize-winning physicist who changed the way we think about particle physics and was the pioneer of the field of quantum electrodynamics.

He also worked on the Manhattan Project, but what he is really famous for is his ability to teach complex subjects in a way that everyone can understand them.

I have always enjoyed explaining complex topics, and I love it when I can help someone with a subject they are struggling with and see it click in their mind when they finally get it.

With my YouTube channel, I might not be able to see the moment that someone finally understands something for the first time, but I at least get some nice comments from my subscribers about how much I have helped them.

For me to be able to teach something to someone else, then I need to understand it properly myself.

The way I do this is by a method that is now called The Feynman Technique.

The Feynman Technique

This technique is fairly simple, but it is really powerful to help you understand a topic quickly and be able to remember it.

Most of the time when we try to learn a new topic, we just read it or in some cases highlight it, but we never do much more.

These are passive forms of learning, and it is what most students do when they are learning a new topic. I can’t remember most of the topics I learnt at school or even university for that matter because I relied on passive learning to cram in as much as I could before the exam.

The Feynman Technique is broken down into 4 main steps:

  1. Pick a topic that you want to learn about
  2. Explain the concept as if you were talking to a child
  3. Find gaps in your knowledge
  4. Review and simplify further

The topic shouldn’t be too broad, otherwise, there is going to be too much to cover. You want to pick something that you could explain to someone else in around 5 minutes.

While you are learning about a topic, write notes in your own writing and try to avoid any jargon. We have a tendency to forget that other people don’t know as much as we do, and by avoiding acronyms we can make sure that our own understanding is clear as well.

Once you have a good understanding of a topic, try to explain it in your own words or, even better, actually explain it to someone else. It doesn’t have to be a child, but ideally, someone who has no prior understanding of the field you are talking about.

If there is anything that they don’t understand and that you can’t explain to them in a simpler way, then it suggests you have some gaps in your knowledge. Go back and fill in those gaps and repeat the process.

Then go over what you have written, review it and see if you can simplify it further.

By doing all of this you are actively learning something, which is much better than just passively reading and highlighting something. The Feynman Technique is one of the best ways to learn a new topic quickly and actually be able to remember it.

❤️ Picks of the Week

I have been having a lot of fun using Midjourney this week, it is amazing what you can create using it. I have always wanted to create a game but my artistic skills for creating characters aren't that great. Now my mind is buzzing with all the ideas that I could now develop.

📝 Article - 15 Sites for Midjourney Prompt Builders and Guides. If you want to get into AI art it does take a while to get the prompts correct. There are some great resources out there though to help with this and this article has a list of all the best ones.

P.S. The Richard Feynman sketch I used for this post was generated with Midjourney. You can tell by looking at the hands 🤣.

👨‍💻 Latest from me

🎬 YouTube - Best Coding Habits to Adopt Now (that I wish I did earlier). They say you are only as good as your habits and these are the habits I think that all developers should adopt.

🗺️ Roadmap - Backend Developer Roadmap. I want my website and YouTube channel to become a complete resource for developers trying to learn software engineering concepts. With all there is to learn it can be difficult to know what is important. I have put together a roadmap of everything I think backend developers should learn. You can click on each of the topics to get more information. There isn't much to look at right now but I am going to be building this out with more information soon.

💬 Quote of the Week

We cannot get anything out of life. There is no outside where we could take this thing to. There is no little pocket, situated outside of life, [to which we could] steal life's provisions and squirrel them away. The life of this moment has no outside.

From Radically Condensed Instructions for Being Just as You Are by Jennifer Matthews. Resurfaced with Readwise.

This post is from my weekly newsletter The Curious Engineer where I share my insights as an engineer turned entrepreneur and the lessons I am learning along the way.

Top comments (1)

ant_f_dev profile image
Anthony Fung

I knew that writing about and teaching a subject were great ways to learn, but didn't know there was a name associated with it.

In a conversational context, I find it's also helpful to try to paraphrase what the other person has said to verify my understanding, e.g. so if I understand, you just said...