How Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer teaches like a humanities professor

As yesterday’s 59–0 Ohio State victory over Wisconsin shows, something is working very well in the Ohio State coaching strategy.  A story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal provides some insight into what that might be.

Taking the Buckeyes to School” talks about how Urban Meyer, who has been at the helm of Ohio State’s football team for three years, has a “flipped” coaching technique.  That is, he has players watch videos or study other “lecture” type materials on their own, like homework, outside of team meetings.  And then actual team meetings are devoted to hands-on exercises, drills, and basically “pop quiz” reviews, in which a player is presented with a scenario and asked how he would respond on the field during a game.

The article talks about how this coaching style is similar to the new “flipped classroom” which “turns the traditional-classroom teaching model on its head” by “delivering” lectures/lessons outside of class and using class time for “homework” via individual tutoring.

To which, as a literature and humanities professor, I can only respond: Ho hum.

Of course, classrooms are not for lectures, at least most of the time.  They’re for discussions.  This model is old, old hat for those of us in the liberal arts.  We’ve been teaching the “flipped classroom” way forever.  Students read materials/texts outside of class and come prepared to do their real learning in an interactive group environment.  Classroom discussions are where students (and teachers 🙂 ) create new knowledge in the form of new connections and insights about the basic course material.

Maybe Urban Meyer’s success on the gridiron will inspire teachers in disciplines outside of the liberal arts to try similar strategies in their classes.

Here is a video of Meyer presenting his coaching philosophy and techniques at a 2012 Ohio High School Coaches Association Clinic.

The video is over an hour long, and the audio is not the best.  So here, also, is a website summary of one person’s key takeaways from that presentation.

Update, August 31, 2015: I just noticed that this post is getting LOTS of views today, so I double checked the links (the Wall Street Journal article, video and “website summary”) to make sure they are still current. The WSJ article and the video still look good, but when I clicked over to the website summary of the video’s points (using my phone, anyway), I couldn’t get past an ad wanting me to sign up for newsletter delivery. There didn’t seem to be a way to close it to read the post without signing up. The site is flippedcoach.com and the post is dated February 23, 2012, and titled “Urban Meyers’ Coaching Philosophy” (and a few more words, can’t remember what they are). Maybe you can avoid the ad if you use a pc instead of a mobile device.

I also don’t know what’s bringing you to this page and whether or not the “humanities” classroom model is something you’re finding to be a useful insight. But if so, I’d be happy to talk with you in more detail about how to facilitate productive discussions and interactive learning in such a “flipped” environment. If you leave a comment at the end of this post, I’ll respond here. Otherwise, if you’d like a private response, please see my “Contact Me” page for info.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this post has been worth your time 😄

Update #2: I think I’ve figured it out. Apparently Urban Meyer made students do pushups who wore blue (arch-rival Michigan’s color, BOOOOO!) to his class today. I’m guessing that many people searching for that story have accidentally landed on my page instead. If you stuck around long enough to read my entire post AND this update, thank you! And good luck finding the story you were actually looking for 😄

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. My blog is a space for playing with ideas about creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, and the nature of "insight."
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One Response to How Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer teaches like a humanities professor

  1. Pingback: Just a fluke, but still lots of fun | Katherine Wikoff

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