“Education that prepares for life is one that prepares definitely and adequately for these specific activities” (1918: 42).

The Tyler rationale is the curriculum made in the assumption that all children are naturally equal in terms of intelligence and learning capabilities. Although this is problematic now, this view made a lot of sense to people back in the day.

Ways I Experienced It

He believed in what is the modern-day syllabus. He was intent on the idea that we can form a path for children to succeed. He relied heavily on the product of the lessons rather than the lessons themselves. A lesson was “good” if students did well on the test provided, which served as the product of the teacher’s lessons. I think many of us have experienced the Tyler rationale in our school years. I particularly see them in effect in math classes. Many of the questions were not adjusted to suit students capabilities in my school. We would all do the same twenty questions. We were also given many tests, and they would indicate whether we did a good job or not. It was also almost completely written into stone about how the course would be like. There were not adjustments to that. The teacher might jump around the units but they would do so it if suited them.

Major Limitations

There are many problems one can find in the Tyler rationale. It’s very strict in a sense that there it wasn’t necessarily expecting the curriculum to change over time. It might have made sense at that time to shape the curriculum like they did, but it doesn’t make much sense nowadays. There is, “…no social vision” ( Smith 3) and was built in the assumption that, “…behavior can be objectively, mechanically measured” (Smith 5). It matched a behaviourist image of how people learn, that one could objectively control how they behaved and learned. Nowadays, I find that many teachers take a more of a humanistic approach rather than the behaviorist approach.


There were some positives in the rationale. It created what I recognize to be the current way of structuring lesson plans. He mentions a seven step plan which includes diagnosing what students need, organizing content, and organizing them. We do this with the current Saskatchewan curriculum – we have objectives and indicators, choose the content, and organize it into units and individual lessons. The rationale was also shaped to prepare students for the workforce at the time. Smith says, “…[there was] detailed attention to what people needed to know in order to work, live their lives” (3). For example, students sit in rows to match how people sat in factories because they assumed that’s where they would choose to work and would prepare them for it. However, this leads back to a main problems of applying the rationale today. The workforce does not need factory workers, as they have been replaced by machines. Instead, we need children who can innovate and think critically. A humanist approach can solve this, rather than a behaviourist. The workforce demands for children to think creatively, not conform. Indeed, Western society as a whole has decided that conformity was not always useful since it would mean conforming to a society that was inherently racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. In some ways, we can still apply it. For example, teaching kids Practical and Applied Arts or putting a focus on Workplace and Apprenticeship subjects would help “live their lives”. They are practical subjects that teach children how the world around them works and would overall help them become more self-reliant adults. Again, the idea is good but the way Tyler applied it is outdated.

In general, I would largely agree that viewing the curriculum as a process is far more productive, in an ironic way. It doesn’t suit the demands of the society we live in today. We are spiraling into an era of technology and innovation. Also, with the rise of environmental problems like climate change, the future of the world rests squarely on the assumption that today’s children are creative but critical thinkers.

2 thoughts on “Curriculum

  1. Hey, I think you raise some interesting points in your blog when you mention how we are “spiraling into an era of Technology and Innovation” I think its true we need to stop just educating our students with more than just the 3R’s and more about topics that are going to be beneficial to them and the world. Just like how Gretta Thornburg is able to be an activist trying to make an actual difference in the world we should be encouraging students to stand up for what the believe in. I also agree that my experience in high school math was very similar and a very glaring example of the Tyler Rational. Math is taught in a very cookie cutter manner and finding different paths to get to the same answer was usually frowned on from my experiences.
    Keep up the great blog posts!


  2. Hey! Great description of the Tyler rationale. I like that you related it to math classes because it is 100% true and I have never thought of it that way. Do you have any suggestions as to how we, as future teachers could use the positives of the Tyler rationale while teaching with the process model?


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