The question is this: Do you understand what is in your notes and the facts that are presented in your textbooks? It’s highly likely that you do not. So read on for the best study techniques for high school and learn the Feynman Technique.
As a Highschooler, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that your teachers want you to learn. One minute, you may be learning about the process of photosynthesis, the next minute, your English teacher is asking you to write an essay. Hours after that, you are struggling over equations in Maths class.
Because there is so much to be learned, you literally note down every word that comes out of your teacher’s mouth and what is written on the board. You read textbooks and memorize dates and facts.
Richard Phillips Feynman is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, who is particularly noted for putting into simple terms complex concepts in quantum mechanics and electrodynamics, and particle physics.
For this reason, he became known as “The Great Explainer”, a learning skill that he learned from his father which developed in him the pleasure of “finding things out.”
Now, it is your turn to learn this very helpful study skill called FEYNMAN’S TECHNIQUE.
What is Feynman’s Technique?
There is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that educators frequently use to describe what Feynman’s Technique is about: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
This can be further simplified using that wonderful acronym “KISS”, meaning “Keep it simple, stupid.”
These study techniques for high school want you to understand the concept of what you are learning and then try to explain it simply and in your own words. If you get stuck in the middle of your explanation or start mouthing off complex terms that you have memorized from your textbook, then you don’t have a full understanding of the concept at all. This technique enables you to discover the problem areas of your learning and do something about them.
The Study Techniques for High School
If you do a quick Google search on the Feynman Technique, they present it in just a few steps. Let me present to you my variation of this learning technique.
Step 1: Read and study the concept
This step may seem pretty straightforward because it is! Just do your usual study routine. At night, after doing your homework, read the topics or concepts scheduled for the next day. During class, listen to your teacher and take notes.
Step 2: Test your knowledge of the topic/concept
Take your notebook or a sheet of paper. On top of the page, write the name of the topic or concept. Next, write down in your own words your explanation of the topic/concept.
Write it as if you were teaching the topic to someone else. Again, keep it simple and avoid complex terms. Avoid limiting yourself by just giving a definition or a general overview of the topic. Instead, add examples or create analogies of the concept with real-life scenarios.
Another way to test your knowledge is to ask a friend or classmate to listen to you explain the concept.
Step 3: Review your explanation
Carefully read through your explanation. Identify the areas wherein your explanation is not clear. In some cases, you may have missed explaining certain points. There may also be parts in your explanation wherein it is obvious that you didn’t know what you were talking about.
If you are doing this exercise with a friend/classmate, ask them to point out the weak points in your explanation. You will need to rework your explanation if your friend did not understand what you were saying or if they point out that there are some parts wherein you were not clear, seemed confused, or reverted to using technical or complex terms.
Step 4: Study on these problem areas again
Upon discovering these problem areas, hit the books again and just focus on these points. Read them more closely. Then, rewrite the problematic sections in your explanation into simpler terms. Again, if you are working with a classmate, ask if they could now understand what you are trying to explain.
Step 5: Request further clarification from your teacher
This is a step that many educators forget to add. If, despite your efforts to explain the concept in simple terms, you still don’t understand it, ask your teacher for help. They are in the best position to explain those aspects of the topic that are not clear to you. Request them to simplify the concept that they have taught for your better understanding.
Examples of Feynman Study Techniques in Action
Many educators recommend using the Feynman Technique in math and science subjects. However, you can apply the steps mentioned above to any subject that you are having difficulty in.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
Example 1: The Pythagorean Theorem
According to the Pythagorean Theorem, you can compute the squared length of the longest side or hypotenuse (H) of a right-angled triangle by adding the squared lengths of the other two sides (a and b).
So: a2 + b2 = H2
If a is 3 and b is 4, your formula becomes 32 + 42 = H2
9 + 16 = 25
H2 = 25
H = √25
H = 5
Note the use of a diagram to show what a right triangle is. Instead of using other letters, I used the letter “H” to stand for the hypotenuse.
Example 2: Aboriginal History: Is the term “Aborigine” politically correct?
Pointing to the chapter in your Australia history book, your teacher mentioned the terms “Aborigine” and “Aboriginal”. As for your assignment, your teacher asked you to write a short essay on whether the use of these terms in the 21st century is still “politically correct.”
As you do further readings on the topic, you summarize what you have learned in the sample below:
I discovered that the term “Aborigine” – which began to be used as early as the 17th century – was derived from the Latin “ab” meaning “from” and “origo” meaning “origin”. The word itself means “first or earliest known” or “indigenous”. The use of this term was further strengthened by the statement in Aboriginal History, that “we have been here since time began.”
However, as the decades passed, these terms were considered as negative and derogatory by certain sectors of the Australian community because of its association with the colonial period in the country. Hence, since the 1980s, it is politically correct to use the term “Indigenous Australians”, encompassing Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders.
Example 3: Applying Feynman to reading chapters in your textbooks (such as History, English, etc.)
First, read the chapter that your teacher has assigned for the next day’s class. Next, after reading, close your textbook and summarize the chapter in simple words. You might want to organize your thoughts by creating lists.
If there is any part that you don’t remember or don’t understand, jot it down and put a question mark beside it. Go through your textbook again for these problem areas. If you still don’t understand it, highlight these problem areas so that you can ask your teacher about them in class the next day.
These are just a few examples of the Feynman Technique in action. You can find other great examples for higher-level mathematics and physics at this link.
As a final word, what makes the Feynman Technique one of the best study techniques for high school is that it relies heavily on your understanding of the topic or concept. With greater understanding, the more you will be able to retain and recall information, facts, and data that you learn in school.