Mastering the Art of Learning with Garrett Arendall: The Feynman Technique

Issue 18: October 11, 2023

This is the first in a multi-part series where I will be addressing different studying techniques, to help you in and out of the classroom.

The old adage, “see one, do one, teach one” is rooted in all fields of learning. To witness
something is to be able to observe and understand it from an outside perspective. To do
something is to get hands-on experience and learn the true ins and outs of a subject. To teach one
is the grasp something at the deepest level, to comprehend something so well you can pass on
your knowledge to others. Rooted in this idea to “teach one” is the studying technique known as
the “Feynman Technique”, named after Richard Feynman, an American theoretical physicist.

Whether you are studying physics, criminology, or music. At some point, you are going
to handle extremely difficult theories or concepts. Often times these concepts can be difficult to
grasp, seeming just out of reach compared to other smaller concepts which can easily be
understood. Feynman, being both an excellent physicist and teacher, placed emphasis on the idea
of learning to teach as opposed to learning to learn. When learning the concept, approach it as if
you are a teacher planning a lesson on the topic. Break it down into manageable simple chunks,
and develop your own lesson plan for how to learn the concept. With this, you will be indirectly
teaching yourself. Acting as your own professor in a sense. To take this even further, teach the
topic to someone else. Find a friend and explain the ins and outs of quantum physics until you
are confident in your knowledge and grasp of the concept.

Now that you have grasped the material, rewrite it as if you are teaching it to someone
with no base knowledge. Simplify your teaching and in turn truly grasp the material. The ability
to expand large concepts at a high level requires a sense of grasping the concept at a lower level.
Do not be afraid to use extremely simple wording in your rewriting. With this comes
memorization, you have already written two lesson plans with two different goals on the
writings. Memorization is repetition and you have already taught yourself through this repetition.

So, to summarize, to learn is to teach, and to teach is to learn. The Feynman Technique is
a universal tool, it doesn’t have to just be used for school, if you are teaching yourself a musical
instrument or learning to code, the application and system used in the technique will also work to
teach you these skills. Sander Tamm of also offers an in-depth look into the
Feynman technique and is a fantastic resource for further development with the technique.