Considering Ralph W. Tyler

In my ECS210 class, we learned about behavioral psychologist Ralph W. Tyler and his contributions to the American educational system. His theory was based on four basic principles:

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 these educational experiences be effectively organized?
4: How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?

Despite these principles being thought up in the early 20th century, they are still being used in classrooms today. Even in my own schooling, I’ve watched teachers organize their plans like this. To understand what that means, however, I’ll explain these principles a little bit better.

Tyler’s rationale is simple; it is lovely in the way that teachers are able to easily structure lessons with a set of outcomes in mind. It is simple, then, after having chosen a goal, to apply it. At first glance, this one-size-fits-all model seems as though it would be a wonderful tool to use.

However, it may not be.

While the rationale is simple, it sets to simplify perhaps the most organic and intricate set of interactions amongst people today into four steps. Additionally, there is no nod towards students’ individuality. It sweeps all students into the same category and aims to drive a point home for every student…despite the fact that different students need to learn different things in different ways.

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What of the children whose strengths lie elsewhere?

Therefore, when these principles were applied in my classroom, more often than not some children do not learn as well as they could. Students that struggle begin to think they are stupid or lacking, when in fact their strengths lie elsewhere. Growing up, many of my teachers seemed to act on Tyler’s rationale. Their classes would be rigid, with children who could memorise and regurgitate doing well and those who could not fell to the wayside. Both of my brothers are remarkably smart; my youngest brother can swap out transmissions in vehicles while only being in grade ten, and my middle brother has a fierce understanding of cultural views and practices. However, both of them are dyslexic. Despite being able to teach even my parents about many things, their marks in school were low. My youngest brother feels that he is not intelligent, and my middle brother as an intense dislike for our Canadian school system. Neither of their strengths are even considered because they have no place in their teacher’s preferred outcomes.

Ultimately, I think the premise of Tyler’s rationale is wonderful…however, if this rationale was to be relevant to modern learners, it needs to be modified a bit. Perhaps a line between 1 and 2 that suggests considering how the lesson could be worked for a more diverse classroom?