How can I understand things faster

Feynman method: learn 4 times faster

Memorizing is not always understanding. You become aware of this when you study the Feynman method. Because it shows us our gaps in knowledge very vividly. Sounds ugly, but it has an unbeatable advantage: We understand the relationships down to the smallest detail and learn four times faster ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

The idea behind the Feynman method

Perhaps you are also familiar with this - whether from retraining or online training: We deal very intensively with a certain subject matter. At the end of the day, we also have the impression that we have understood the subject. We are all the more astonished later when we cannot explain certain aspects of the topic satisfactorily. Unfortunately, we usually only notice this when it's too late: in the exam or during the test. Then we notice that we did not understand the material after all, we just learned it by heart.

This is exactly where the Feynman method comes in, which should enable us to learn new things four times faster.

Who was Richard Feynman?

Richard Feynman was a physicist by nature and a real all-rounder. He was not only concerned with quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics, for which he and the scientists Schwinger and Tomonaga received the Nobel Prize in 1965, but with many other things. He was also known for cracking his colleagues' safes. He was also involved in explaining why the Challenger space shuttle exploded in 1986.

He liked to stylize himself as a cross-driver and country man, although he had considerable success in science. He shows early on that the Feynman method rightly bears his name: it developed a new type of notation in the early years as a researcher. In it he used graphic elements such as straight and serpentine lines to simplify complex issues.

Not all knowledge is the same

To understand how the Feynman Method works, we need to distinguish between different types of knowledge. First there is superficial knowledge. That is the knowledge that gives us difficulties in the exam or test. Because instead of penetrating and understanding the facts, we have only internalized the technical terms and terminology - we have mastered the technical jargon.

In other words: we do not understand what we are saying, we only give out certain words. A parrot might as well. In contrast, there is profound knowledge and understanding. When we have reached that stage, we have completely penetrated the matter. We understand why fire is hot, for example, and we can explain all of its facets. It is precisely this knowledge that enables us to answer so-called transfer questions. These are the questions that often give us the most problems in the test. Because knowledge is apparently being asked for that we don't even have. But that's not entirely true.

Anyone who has actually fully understood a situation can make generalizations and use this knowledge to draw conclusions about new, similar situations (make a transfer). The Feynman Method is precisely about this knowledge.

This is how the Feynman method works

According to legend, Feynman founded a study group with a few colleagues. Everyone present should explain a topic to the other participants as simply as possible. One of the prerequisites was that no technical terms or foreign words were allowed to be used. Nevertheless - or precisely because of this - the audience should fully understand the topic. Sounds trivial? But it is not at all. Try it out for yourself.

Pick any topic and prepare it in such a way that a kindergarten child can understand it. You will quickly notice that this is precisely what is a fine art. Because in order to explain a situation very simply, we have to understand it down to the smallest detail. The Feynman method thus promotes our own understanding and enables us to answer transfer tasks in exams.

The individual steps of the method

The Feynman method consists of different steps and has a so-called recursive character. This means that the steps are not only applied once, but form a circle. After the last step has been completed, it starts all over again. This is how you can check that you have actually understood everything. Sounds more complicated than it actually is. Take a look at the individual points:

1. Explain the topic completely

If you start with a new topic, you should first get an overview of your current level of knowledge. You do this by explaining the topic to a (imagined or real) interlocutor. It is ideal if the person you are talking to has never heard of the topic. You have to proceed in a small way and explain exactly.

2. Make a note of missing knowledge

The charm of the first step is that you quickly notice which aspects of the subject you do not understand. Because what you have not understood, you cannot explain. These are exactly the things you should write down. You will come back to this later. Incidentally, noting does not only apply to the contexts that you did not fully understand. Conversely, you should also note when you use technical terms or foreign words. The reason: No newcomer will understand technical terms in relation to the topic. So using them does not help.

3. Close knowledge gaps

Things that you did not understand and technical terms that you use should be looked up in this step. It's very easy to do. Because thanks to the previous point, you have a precise overview of where your gaps are. Be especially careful to replace technical terms and specific terminology with simple words. Examples from everyday life that any listener can easily understand also help.

4. Explain the topic completely

This brings us back to the first step (we remember: The Feynman method forms a circle). To check that your research is complete, you should explain the topic again. So imagine your inexperienced listener again and give your lecture again. Whenever you need to stop or think, make another note of it. Apparently there is still some catching up to do here (step 3).

Further deepen existing knowledge

Repeat the individual steps until you can present the topic without problems and without major breaks. When the time comes, you will have a deep understanding. Incidentally, the Feynman Method does not only help you with regard to the current topic. When you get through the material this far, you build on what you already know. In doing this, you are building a web of information that you have internalized. When learning new things, you fall back on this network. This means that you will deepen your existing knowledge and learn new facts more quickly. The Feynman method does not rely on the dull reproduction of what has been learned by heart, the so-called bulimia learning, but on actual understanding and penetration of the facts.

Multi-sensor technology helps with understanding

Of course, there are many more, innumerable techniques you can use to learn things. Some aim at understanding (like the Feynman method), others at memory training (mnemonics). Multi-sensor technology is one such technique. It is recommended, for example, when learning vocabulary. The idea behind it: If as many sensory perceptions as possible are addressed, we can remember the new word more easily.

An example: You are learning Spanish and you stumble upon the word for apple, namely “la manzana”. In order to memorize the vocabulary quickly and, above all, in the long term, you should address as many senses as possible. Here's how it works: Make the hand movement that you normally do while eating an apple. At the same time, imagine what your favorite apple will taste like. And remember the sound you make when you bite into an apple. The graphic illustrates the advantages of this method:

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