What does play calling in the NFL have to do with differentiated instruction?

Posted by Ronald | February 7, 2014  |  No Comment

It is expected that Denver Broncos’ quarterback, Peyton Manning will be remembered in history as one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League (NFL). During the 2013 – 2014 NFL football season, Manning was known for changing his plays on the line of scrimmage of each game. When Manning is ready to audible his play (change the play), he yells the word “Omaha.” In fact, during the Broncos’ American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game against the New England Patriots, Peyton yelled “Omaha” at least 31 times. This alternative style of quarterbacking gave the Broncos’ offense the edge over almost all of their opposing teams except the Seattle Seahawks, the 2014 Super Bowl Champions.

Considering football and education are two different professions, what does play calling in the NFL have to do with differentiated instruction?  Is there any relationship between changing plays on the football field and differentiated instruction in the classroom?

According to research, differentiated instruction is a process of facilitating teaching and learning for students with different learning styles and abilities in the same classroom. Effective teachers differentiate their lessons in a way to meet the needs of all students in the classroom taking in consideration their prior knowledge, interests, culture, language and motivation to learn.  For example, in a science classroom, a teacher might have a student who has a learning disability, is one grade level behind, slow at grasping the concepts, disengaged or intellectually gifted. Effective teachers adjust their teaching methods to help all of these students reach the objective for the lesson through different paths.

In fact, a one-size-fits-all method of teaching and learning is outdated in a 21st century educational setting. Using differentiated instruction, effective teachers assess certain learning styles and abilities and adapt minute by minute to an academically diverse student body. Outstanding teachers constantly adapt teaching methods and behaviors for better learning outcomes. Similarly, a one-size-fits-all method of play calling is outdated in the NFL. Peyton Manning audibles according to what the opposing defense is showing him on the football field. He quickly assesses certain defense formations based on where the linebackers and cornerbacks are positioned physically on the field and changes his play with alternative options for better results.

In order to maximize the constant use of differentiated instruction in the classroom, the overall effectiveness will depend on the organizational leadership, training, competent and quality level of the teacher and the teacher’s willingness to change based on the environment. The same is for an NFL quarterback when deciding to audible on the line of scrimmage of a football game.

 Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of four books, “Education Questions to be Answered,”  “Current Issues and Answers in Education,”  “How to Eradicate Hazing and “Professional Career Paths.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper.  Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected].

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