Tyler Theory

When I focus in on the curriculum theories of Ralph Tyler, much of his theory seems vaguely familiar to me. The way I see it, much of Tyler’s theory revolves around generally figuring out what children need to know. Tyler also focuses on how students need to behave, and what teachers need to do to make that happen. Tyler created a “full proof” formula to ensure educational success.  I can recall this most vividly when the math curriculum switch in high schools. I was not affected by the switch but my younger brother was. I learned math with a more generalized curriculum, separated by grade and levels, math 20 as was the requirement but there were about 4 or 5 other classes to take after that. Of course some classes were prerequisites to certain university faculty and college programs so many people took all of the maths. Taking all of the offered math classes was seen as smart, because as high school students most of us had no idea what we wanted to do after high school yet. When my brother got to high school his experience in math was much different. I don’t recall the exact names (I suppose as an education student I should know them) but the curriculum was separated into a more business influenced math and a more trades influenced math. I could be completely wrong here but I do remember the general idea being that you would take whichever math curriculum that pertained to the area of work you wanted as your career. Pretty intimidating for a high school student wouldn’t you think?

While my math experience revolved more around Tyler’s curriculum theory with no choice and a generalized idea of what students needed to know, my brother’s math experience gave him choice. Here is what I find interesting about this situation… we are told choice is always better, but in this case it was intimidating because they have to choose their careers paths when they may have no idea what they want. When I was in high school you could simply take all the maths and your bases were covered for what ever career path you might choose. Now, I am sure there is actually some sort of option to cover all your bases on the math front, but this example just goes to show how comfortable we are with a set structure as opposed to choice.

As I delve into thought about Tyler’s theory of curriculum I think of some of the downfalls. I see it as very ridged. Aside from the obvious lack of human emotion and relationship, his theory seems to limit the student and teacher. As said in the assigned article “The problem here is that such programmes inevitably exist prior to and outside the learning experiences. This takes much away from learners. They can end up with little or no voice. They are told what they must learn and how they will do it.” (Smith 2000 Curriculum Theory Practice, pdf, P.4). If we acknowledge that there a different types of learners than why would we teach for one general type. Call me dramatic but doesn’t Tyler’s theory seem to make children into robots and teachers into technicians?

As a preservice teacher I hope to give my students choice in their learning, while making sure that they are “covering their bases”. I don’t believe that choice limits students, but I do recognize that there are some general ideas and aspects of the curriculum that need to be learned by all students. I believe that the biggest job of a teacher today is helping their students to learn in interesting and empowering ways while still making sure to meet the curriculum outcomes. My job as a teacher is to guide students to learn these general outcomes, but to enlighten and empower them to learn these outcomes in the ways that benefits them. I want to be the reason that my students like learning, I want to show them that learning is not boring or uniform. I want my students to feel that though they are all different, each of them has strengths that are important. Most importantly I want my students to know that they are unique leaners, not robots.



One thought on “Tyler Theory

  1. Hey Molly,
    I think your example of the high school math curriculum makes sense. I remember also feeling glad that I got to finish my math through the old program before being forced to have my whole future planned. I don’t know a lot about the new math program either. It seems like a great thing that students have choice, but I guess the question to ask from that is “is choice always the best thing?” Obviously it sounds like a good thing, but in this case it seems like it could be negative! I think Tyler’s rationale can also be seen in both the old and new path in the math curriculum. I think that as much as we try to erase it, Tyler’s rationale will always be present at least in small ways.


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