ECS 210 – Curriculum Theory & the Tyler Rationale


As future teachers, we are constantly coming into contact with new information, ways of knowing and teaching, and viewpoints that can all become assets in our future careers, but sometimes we must sit back and think about what all these different viewpoints are truly trying to tell us, and why they are there to begin with.

Within the article discussed this week, the topic of the Tyler Rationale came to the centre of attention. The Tyler Rationale, when defined, is an ordered way of passing curriculum to students in which one must complete a certain task before moving onto the next one, and so forth. This is something I definitely experienced on a daily basis during my own school career, and is actually quite common in most classrooms. An example could be a student completing a test, and once they are done the first page, they must bring it up to the teacher to receive the next page. Some subjects, such as English and History tended to be less sequential, when others, such as Math, were set up and taught in a way that it would be very difficult to learn the concepts if not completed in this manner.

When looking at limitations of the Tyler Rationale, many topics and problems come to mind, beginning with the issue of learning styles. Depending on the student, everyone has their own personal learning style, or the style of teaching that they seem to find to work better for them and lead them to more success than others. When the Tyler Rationale is then applied to a classroom, making the lesson follow a mannerly, restrictive order, some students may feel that this is limiting their learning, since they possibly prefer to begin to understand the topic from the top and break it down into smaller pieces, rather than the ladder.

But, on the other hand, many benefits to this system can also be seen, such as the ability for teachers who use this system to always have an orderly teaching plan on hand, and know exactly how they will lay the class out, and when each subtopic will be discussed. Another benefit is the predictability of how classes will turn out, and what to expect of students during a certain week. This type of predictability and readiness for a teacher is super attractive, since classroom planning does not always go as planned, or as orderly as one may want.

As we advance farther and farther towards are teaching careers, I believe that considering and analyzing the benefits and problems of different styles of teaching and classroom systems is very important to our growth and development, since we must learn that our own personal viewpoints on how a classroom should be set up are not the only viewpoints in our community, and all must be considered and respected.

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The point of curriculum.

As a teacher it is important to look at what you are teaching and ask “why”. There are times that your schedule gets busy or the students are not learning at a desired rate but it is important to realize that it is better if the students truly understand one concept rather than only knowing parts of multiple concepts. I believe that it would be a helpful when making lessons to look at Tyler’s fundamentals to see if you are successfully teaching your students. 

I find that teachers often understand the purpose of a lesson, but that purpose is not always shown to the students, and in turn the students become less interested. Within my education math courses, I have learned the importance of allowing students to discover their own learning through activities rather than “having the instructor perform certain activities” (Tyler 1949: 44). It is important that the students are engaged in what they are learning and have a chance to discover parts of it by themselves. Students need the time to internalize and understand the material. 

Within my placement school I found that the teacher had the outcomes the class was working on listed on the board. This allowed the students to see what they were working towards and what the expectations were. Within my classroom I would like to expand this and add what activities we will be doing to learn each outcome. I will also try to talk to my students to see if my teaching is effective. Having exemplars of the work helps the students to identify what they need to strive for. 

Growing up many of my assessment mirrored the shopping list style. If a student was able to solve one question on one assignment, it meant that they were capable of solving any question using those same principals. This is just not true, as even people who are trained and certified in certain areas still make mistakes but they are able to find those mistakes afterwards because they full understand the concept. This was also common in high school were a unit would be taught and tested at the beginning of the year, but also tested at the final even though the concept was not use since the original testing. If we truly understood the concept, the final should be easy, but if we can just do the shopping list, the final would be much more difficult.  A professor once referred to this type of teaching as “covering the content” rather than seeing and understanding the concepts. 

The limitation I found within the four fundamentals and other areas of Tyler’s rationale is the difficultly to assess students who are not part of the classroom majority. If a school or classroom is trying to get each student to read at grade level, what happens to the students who are reading above grade level, as they are no longer challenged. There is no true way to know if the educational purposes will be attained, especially since educational purposes will have to change as society changes. 

The educational purpose of Saskatchewan education is based around becoming lifelong learners. To create educational experiences Saskatchewan tries to encourage both learning in the classroom but also learning from a professional in certain fields. By introducing both new material and reviewing previous material it allows students to find areas that they enjoy. If students are asking questions and researching independently, it shows that the purpose of education is being attained. 

Tyler’s four fundamentals

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? (Tyler 1949: 1)

Works Cited

Smith. (n.d.). Theory and Practice in Curriculum

Tyler, R. W. (1949) Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction , Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Curriculum development from a traditionalist perspective is widely used across schools in Canada and other countries. Can you think about: (a) The ways in which you may have experience the Tyler rationale in your own schooling? (b) What are the major limitations of the Tyler rationale/what does it make impossible? (c) What are some potential benefits/what is made possible? Be sure to refer to the assigned article in your post; you may also include information from lecture if you wish.

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ECS 210 Blog Posts

Week #2 Reading Response:

Since the start of organized school systems, there has been little changes to the subjects that get taught and the way the schools operate. Growing up, I have experienced the Tyler rationale on many occasions. Occurring all throughout my time in school, I can remember that all subjects are taught mostly among the guidelines of Tyler’s Rationale which includes aims and objectives, content, organization of teaching and learning then an evaluation that gets graded. A certain subject that I can relate this too is math. You start your lesson with objectives that that you want your class to learn like division. You then teach the process of division with organization and the steps of division in hopes that the kids will learn it. Regardless if the students get it or not there is a set date for the exam and that’s when it will take place. The process never really changes, there is a start, then the content and then test. This is convenient for teachers because this rationale adds structure to our school system.

One major limitation to the Tyler Rationale is that schools don’t emphasize enough on common sense. Schools have set classes and subjects that need to be followed that some kids may find uninteresting also. Tyler’s Rationale seems to put more thought into staying within the curriculum and staying on task that sometimes actually learning the subject. It doesn’t really let students expand their ways of thinking and understanding.

I think one of the biggest benefits of Tyler’s Rationale is how it provides a structure and process to school systems as we talked about in class and shown on the power point slides. It helps for teachers planning and organization in classrooms. Each teacher would have their own way of running a classroom if it wasn’t for Tyler’s Rationale which may cause chaos. With organization and structure it allows students to stay on task and to have an end goal.

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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 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 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.

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Curriculum Theory – Week 2 (by Jae)

  • Can you think about: (a) The ways in which you may have experience the Tyler rationale in your own schooling?

The Tyler rationale orders the procedure in a consequential way and indicates that one completes one task before moving on to complete the next task.  It seems that it implies one is not able to complete the second task without doing the first. I have had experience doing these sorts of tasks in school in various subjects.  Sometimes teachers would assign stories or novels to read and give chapter questions that the responses followed the sequence of the storyline. One could not move on to the next part until the questions were completed in order.

Math is another subject that was set up very sequential.  We learned math as determined by the teacher. We completed questions on a page and then moved on to the next page.  It was rare that we completed something that was “out of order”.

  • (b) What are the major limitations of the Tyler rationale/what does it make impossible?

The limitations to this approach would be that it is systematic and would have limitations to have students transfer their knowledge.  They may be able to learn something in one context but then it may be challenging to apply the learning to a new problem. Also, the planning is organized in one way which will make thinking outside the box more challenging.  This method implies behaviour can be measured accurately and objectively. The knowledge is almost in a “shopping list” that is acquired in an orderly fashion.

  • (c) What are some potential benefits/what is made possible? Be sure to refer to the assigned article in your post; you may also include information from lecture if you wish.

Benefits to this approach would be that it has considerable organizing power. A benefit may also be the systematic part of this approach as teachers could always follow this for planning. It is a challenge as a teacher to organize and plan their lessons, units, year plans and incorporate all the outcomes while sometimes looking cross curricularly.  This approach is one way to organize all that information. This approach focuses on behavioural objectives and that the results of behaviour can be evaluated. This is often a challenging task.

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Common Sense

1. Kumashiro said that “common sense limits what is considered to be consistent with the purposes of schooling.”  He defines common sense  as using and doing what has traditionally been done in the past.  Common sense in schools of often trying not to engage students in their learning but preparing them for a high stakes assessment.  He learned from his experience in Nepal that students were used to only doing what was expected to do well on the final standardized tests.  

2. It is important to pay attention to common sense in school as changing the mindset and beliefs of students, teachers and parents is challenging.   It’s difficult for people to think beyond the traditional knowledge as what people know gives them a sense of comfort.  People have certain beliefs about teaching and learning and how to achieve the outcomes of school.  Doing something different from what they know is not easy.   Kumashiro said that “common sense does not often tell us that the status quo is quite oppressive”.  We need to pay attention to common sense to so we “challenge oppression”.

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ECS 210 – Curriculum Theory Practice

This week, we were to read this article that focused on different theories around curriculum. When looking at the Tyler rationale and comparing it to the schooling I received, I feel as though this is mainly what my teachers used. Focusing on elementary education, I can see how different elements such as reading and writing were broken down to their basic skills (phonetics, semantics, etc) in order to eventually produce the final goal o being about to read books and write papers. This is the same idea for elementary math, as it takes the basic skills of addition and subtraction in order to understand more complex math down the road.
There are many benefits to this type of teaching, as it gives many opportunities to gain a foundation of basic knowledge and understanding that can eventually be expanded on. For elementary teachers, who must teach almost all subjects, it helps to break it down so that they only need a general understanding of subjects. At this point in time, kids normally do not have too complex questions and teachers are able to help in a wider variety. Another advantage is that "the attraction of this way of approaching curriculum theory and practice is that it is systematic and has considerable
organizing power."(pg.4) I love the idea of being organized and being able to have set skills set apart to make learning potentially easier. It helps with consistency and efficiency so that students are able to focus on one aspect.
However this rationale does come with disadvantages because it steps away from looking at the final product. Yes, it builds the stepping stones to eventually reach the final product, but in the process, it can be difficult to see the purpose behind what is being taught. When one focuses on a specific area, such as math equations, the actually everyday application outside of school can be missed. I know for me, there were many times I questioned the point of math as I did not see myself needing it once I graduated.
Overall, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and as long as teachers are able to work in this way with outlining the end goal, it can be an extremely beneficial rationale for teaching practices.
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ECS 210: Curriculum Theory and Practice

ECS 210: Curriculum Theory and Practice

In reading the article Curriculum Theory and Practice we were asked to then answer the following prompts:

Can you think about:

a) The ways in which you many have experienced the Tyler rationale in your own school?

In many ways I feel my schooling reflected the principles that Tyler highlights. Often learning was about learning a key point or purpose that is then brought down to basic skills that need to be practiced to have shown you are a good student. The outcome or product is very important and assessing whether that objective was met is a key tenant of my school experience. This may also be why certain subjects, like math and science, which may be seen as more focused on societal function, are seen as more essential to the school experience than visual art, music, and drama.

b) What are the major limitations of the Tyler rational/what does it make impossible?

Some limitations is that when focused on the product learning may start to become broken down to small components that are the building blocks of that subject but loses the big picture of the reason behind learning that subject. An example can be seen as learning formulas in mathematics but not seeing the real world connects and uses for learning them.

c) What are some potential benefits/what is made possible?

When the key facts or skills are made clear to students they have a good idea of how to work towards and build those skills. Teachers are also provided with a clear outcome to structure their curriculum towards and find ways to include all learners in their planning. This may also benefit teachers who are instructing in an area that is not one of their strengths, as they have clear cut goals that they are more capable of leading the students towards than having to come up with their own assessment in a wide field of study.

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Reading Response: The Problem of Common Sense

How does Kumashiro define ‘commonsense’?

Kuashiro defines ‘commonsense’ as the stuff that everyone should know. It is the things in society that everyone already understands and have taken as fact, and thinks strange to have to explain to ‘outsiders’. Commonsense pertains to the certain structures that people assume are the same all around the world and are uncomfortable with the idea that others may do it differently. I think that commonsense is comfort for a lot of people, its linked to tradition and culturally embedded. It is the way things have always been done so therefor it is somehow seen as the best way to do things. Commonsense are the things that people find normal or expected, and people use as a fallback.

Why is it so important to pay attention to the ‘commonsense’?

It is important to pay attention to the things that we deem ‘commonsense’ because they can be problematic without us even realizing it. When people look at a system that’s already in place it often gets taken for truth or fact. It’s assumed that systems have been put in place for an important reason and that they are serving their purpose well, or else they would have been changed by now, but usually that is not the case. Many systems or structures haven’t been changed because people just don’t looked closely enough at them to realize that they are a problem, people assume that they are ‘best practice’. Or when people have tries to enact change, they have received negative push-back. Commonsense reinforces systems of oppression, both blatant and subtle, that date back many years and no longer fit the purpose that they were made for.



Kumashiro. (2009). Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice, pp. XXIX – XLI.

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Curriculum Development from the Traditionalist Perspective

When I look back to when I was in high school, I can see how the Tyler rational was used. For example, at the beginning of each semester, my English teacher would hand us out a syllabus that outlined all the different outcomes in the class, the learning objectives that we were supposed to know by the end of the semester, and on the back of the syllabus, she put a table that included her year plan with all the lessons she taught and all the assignments we had to hand in that showed us which outcome her lessons/our assignments were hitting. My fellow peers and I all had the same assignments with the same format. So for instance, if we had to write a book report on The Lord of the Flies we all had to do that task in the same essay format. Additionally, on our tests, the outcomes of the unit were clearly specified in a rubric format so that we knew what we had to write in order to get the grade we wanted. Finally, on one of the walls in the classroom, she hung up a sheet of paper for every outcome on the curriculum (i.e. CC.1, CR.3, AR.2, etc.).

As specified in the article “Curriculum Theory and Practice” by Smith (2000), the central feature of Tyler rationale is “the formulation of behavioural objectives” (p. 4). In other words, the approach “[provides] a clear notion of [the] outcome so that content and method may be organized and the results evaluated” (p. 4). There are many advantages that come with this component of the approach. For instance, if the teacher specifies the outcomes to their students at the beginning of the semester or year, students know exactly what is expected of them and can see what the major points of the class are. This specification is especially beneficial for students who have trouble picking out the important aspects of a lesson or what they should be taking away from a lesson. It is also helpful for students who benefit from having routines, like students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If a teacher hands out a syllabus at the beginning of the year (similar to the one my English teacher handed out to me and my peers), then the students can prepare for that specific class/day. The syllabus also provides a sense of comfort in a way. For example, if a student missed a class they can turn to the syllabus to see what they missed and they can expect that what is on the syllabus is what was taught or what their peers worked on that day.

However, there are many disadvantages that also come from this approach. Some disadvantages that are specified by Smith (2000) are the program is of “great importance.” Focusing only on the program takes away the voice of students in the way that they do not get a choice in what is taught and how they can represent their learning. Teachers are simply teaching to a class and not the individuals within that class, or as Smith (2000) puts it, “it turns educators into technicians” (p. 5). Another issue is the uncertainty of what is being measured because it is difficult to judge the impact of a certain experience has on a student. Smith (2000) explains that in order for something to be measured things have to be broken down into small pieces which usually results in a long list of trivial skills instead of the whole. Thirdly, there is a problem when it comes to “what educators actually do in the classroom” (p. 5). Teachers have a hard time reaching students when the curriculum is not meaningful to them. When teachers focus too much on the curriculum, or what they think that their students should be learning, the students become bored and unmotivated to learn. Lastly, there is a “problem of anticipated results” (p. 5). If there are pre-specified goals, educators and learners overlook the learning that is occurring in the classroom.

Ultimately, teachers need to make sure that they are teaching the required outcomes in the curriculum. I believe that the Tyler rationale is a good way for teachers to specify what learning needs to occur in the classroom to their students. Then, I think that teachers can adapt the ways that they teach for the different types of students that they have in their classroom and to what the students want to learn and represent their learning. I think that when teachers collaborate with their students, the students feel like their teacher really cares about them and can take charge of their learning which motivates them to succeed.

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