This is a guest post by Matthew Douglas
Let’s say you want to take a shot at learning something new. Now whether it’s a language, a software, or a college-level calculus problem, the Feynman technique can help you to master any subject. This powerful learning technique is named after the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who was made famous for his ability to explain complex ideas on a level that even an inexperienced person could understand. In this post, we will be exploring the Feynman technique and how you can use it to become an expert in any field.
An Introduction to the Feynman Technique
Let’s begin by simply understanding what the Feynman technique is. The Feynman technique is based on the idea that the best way to truly understand something is to be able to explain it to another person in simple terms. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Pick any topic you want to learn about and write down everything you know about it.
Step 2: Take some time to teach the topic to someone else as if you were explaining it to a child. Be sure to use simple language and avoid overly complex wording.
Step 3: Isolate the gaps in your understanding and go back to the original material to fill those gaps.
Step 4: Simplify and refine your explanation, repeating this process until you can explain the subject completely and concisely.
How to Apply the Feynman Technique in Your Learning
Now that the basics of the Feynman Technique have been explained, let’s put it into action and see how it can be applied in a real scenario. Here is how we can apply this method to our own learning:
- First, choose a topic that you want to master. For example: I want to become a better public speaker.
- Then, write down everything you know about the topic, and be sure to include any questions or things you are uncertain about. For example: A brainstorm on this topic might include topics or words such as speaking, presenting, posture, tone of voice, virtual versus in-person, eye contact, visuals, slide decks, movement, etc.
- Next, Take time to teach the topic to someone else — it could be anyone. Make sure to pay attention to their reactions and questions around the topic, as this can help you identify the areas where your understanding is unclear. At this point, you could do a brown bag lunch presentation on the basics of good public speaking and collect questions based on your presentation.
- Then, revert back to the source material and fill in the gaps in your knowledge based on the questions presented. This could be in the form of reading material, educational videos, or even consulting with an expert. Referring back to the example, based on the questions during your brown bag presentation, you will find the areas where more research is needed and you can fill in the gaps.
- Lastly, Take the time to simplify and refine your explanation of the topic until you can explain it in a straightforward, uncomplicated way that an inexperienced person can understand. In terms of your presentation, you could refine your presentation and offer to give it again or record it as a video tutorial for co-workers.
By just following the steps provided, you can use the Feynman technique to gain a deeper understanding of any subject and become a subject matter expert on this topic.
In conclusion, the Feynman technique is an awesome tool to use for your learning and development efforts. By simply breaking down ideas from their most complex state into easy-to-understand explanations, you can identify gaps in your understanding, which will lead you to a more complete understanding of the topic. No matter if you are a college student or an AEC professional, the Feynman technique proves to be an effective way that one can become an expert in any field. Give it a try and see how this powerful tool can revolutionize your learning experiences.
About the Author:
Matthew Douglas currently serves as the Learning Lab & STEM Outreach Leader for the Engineering Management Institute. As a civil engineer by trade, Matthew has developed a passion for construction and stormwater management by way of maintenance and rehabilitation services. Matthew has also had experience working for private consulting firms and public agencies and has even held the role of an educator. As such, he loves to lead, build, mentor, and help those in need.
Most recently, during his time working for the public sector, Matthew took on the role of a public works operations manager. There he led quite a few public infrastructure rehabilitation projects and implemented new asset management technologies at a very young age. It is here that the passion for “fixing what’s broken” developed. He now uses his talents to lead EMI’s Learning and Development – Operational procedures, train engineers, and co-host podcasts.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success