Tyler, R. (2013). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. In: D. J. Flinders & S. J. Thornton (Eds.), Curriculum Studies Reader (4th ed.), pp. 59–68. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.
First published in 1949, the first sentence of Ralph Tyler’s paper, “a rationale for viewing, analyzing and interpreting the curriculum and instructional program of an educational institution” (p. 59). Illustrates how curriculum is being presented almost as a factory process. The paper provides a set of guidelines to be used by any institution to produce a curriculum fit for purpose. As with any manufacturing process, first analyse your problem. To do this, Tyler proposed four basic principles…
- What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
- What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
- How can these educational experiences be effectively organized?
- How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained? (Tyler, 2013, p. 59)
In contrast to Dewey’s child-centred process, Tyler is purpose-driven. He criticizes teaching with no clearly defined educational aims/goals. In defining these aims, Tyler disagreed with those he termed progressives that emphasized “the importance of studying the child to find out what kinds of interests he has” (p. 60) and the essentialists who focused on “the basic learnings selected from the vast cultural heritage of the past.” (p. 60) Instead, Tyler turned to behavioural science, “[u]sing studies of contemporary life as a basis for deriving objectives” (p. 63), for a functional curriculum.
Tyler’s Curriculum Development Cycle
Following analysis of the students, specialist subject matter reports, and “an acceptable educational philosophy” (p. 63), Tyler proposed establishing a hypothesis derived from the expected learning outcomes for students. Curriculum workers observed student behaviour in what was deemed a scientific manner, determining if student behaviour confirmed or denied their initial hypotheses. The curriculum was then designed and developed according to the analysis and hypotheses. The final stage of the process would be the implementation of the curriculum. Throughout the entire cycle, evaluation of hypotheses, design, development and resulting student behaviour would feedback into the system via constant evaluation. Thereby allowing for any aspect to be altered in order to produce the desired results in the classroom.
Talking Point: Comparing Tyler’s curriculum development cycle with an exemplar software development cycle, how analogous have students become to an industrial product under the Tyler Rationale?
In 1949, following WWII, with an international workforce shortage, Tyler’s basic principles were seen as a positive influence by both educators and employers throughout the United States. They were practical, easy to apply and readily adopted. (Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery & Taubman, 1995).
Talking Point: To what extent does the Tyler Rationale continue to inform modern teaching practice and how?