Curriculum Theory and Practice Reflection

Discussion for week two of ECS 210 revolved around the article Curriculum Theory and Practice by Mark K. Smith. One of the major topics covered in this article was the work of Ralph W. Tyler in curriculum theory. His work is known as the Tyler Rationale. The Tyler Rationale is focused on four main points:

  1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
  2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
  3. How can educational experiences be effectively organized?
  4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?

These four points are based on his beliefs that the curriculum can rise above all contexts (social class for example) and that the final product is how success is measured.

In my experience with both public and private schooling I have come into contact with the Tyler rationale many times over the years, especially the connotations that are formed as a result of it, specifically, how the final product is valued more than the journey of learning itself. Especially in private school where marks were an ongoing competition, most students, and even teachers, did not actually care about what we were learning. The only thing that mattered was who would have the highest mark on the honour roll when the list was posted by the principal’s office. We studied our notes and memorized the material for the exams and as soon as finals were over the information would be completely forgotten, and I can’t help but think that this is due to the heavy influence from the Tyler Rationale that has caused society to measure intelligence based on high test scores and it has become engrained in our society over a number of years.

There are a few limitations to the Tyler Rationale, the first being that “the plan or programme assumes great importance.” which takes away from the learner experience, the students feel like they have no freedom or agency and thus makes it so there is only one path to success. When students don’t adhere to that path they feel like they have not met expectations. In terms of educators, they are judged based on the results of their actions and their ability to apply the programme, it “turns educators into technicians”.

Additionally, it relies too heavily on measurements, it suggests that behaviour can somehow be measured. Something that is a concept and not a physical object must be measured based on an arbitrary scale. Furthermore, it creates a problem for what teachers do within the classroom. With the Tyler rationale teachers aim to hit the objectives to reach success rather than focus on the journey of education.

Lastly, the Tyler rational claims to be neutral (and as we learned curriculum can never be neutral) as well as it does not take into consideration the context of the learner. It claims that by having a neutral curriculum it should appeal to all learners depending on what is happening outside of their school life, which in reality is impossible.

Some potential benefits of the Tyler rationale are that it prepares students for the “real world” because, like Tyler’s Rationale, society views success based on final products and reaching objectives. People who are seen as highly successful are those who have reached certain objectives (reaching millionaire status for example). In society, people do not necessarily value experience as success, you have to have something to show for it.

Another “benefit” is that it gives us a way to monitor students progress. When students hit the milestones that are laid out in the curriculum it gives us educators and idea of where they are. It tells us if they are getting something out of the lessons or not. It can also tell us where the student is meeting expectations and where the student needs to improve.

Overall, the Tyler Rationale has some flaws, but it has been ingrained so deeply in our curriculums that we do not even realize that we are using it, however becoming aware of it can help us utilize it for the benefit of us, our classrooms, and our students.


3 thoughts on “Curriculum Theory and Practice Reflection

  1. Wow Jess,
    “The only thing that mattered was who would have the highest mark on the honour roll when the list was posted by the principal’s office. We studied or notes and memorized the material for the exams and as soon as finals were over the information would be completely forgotten, and I can’t help but think that this is due to the heavy influence from the Tyler Rationale that has caused society measure intelligence based on high test scores…”
    Those couple of sentences really stood out to me as I completely agree with you on this argument. It was brought up that notes were memorized just to get that high test mark and then completely forget everything afterwards, as it felt like school was only a competition, rather than a place of learning and growing.

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  2. Hello! After reading your article, I have found myself thinking even more deeply about the ideas of this weeks reading and how heavily the Tyler Rationale truly has effected our education as students as well as its continuing presence in our profession. I loved your comment on how society really puts a lot of emphasis on the final products and not enough on the process, which is why the Tyler Rationale is very apparent in our schools and helps teach students indirectly about the real world. I also loved your comment on how engrained this system is in our society, that we don’t even notice it anymore at this point. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Hi Jess! I also experienced the Tyler Rationale, and all the competition it leads to in terms of grades, in my own schooling. We also would forget everything we had learned as soon as the exam was over, because it was no longer important for us to know. How do you think we can help to eliminate this over-focus on grades in our classrooms? Do you think there is a better way to approach curriculum that would put the focus back on learning rather than on testing?

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