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Ralph Tyler

Page history last edited by Toni Bellon 9 years, 6 months ago

Ralph Tyler

Providing the structure that has connected curriculum and evaluation for decades!

Presented by Toni Bellon

Historical Context of Work

Born, 1902

Died, 1994

Ralph Tyler was born into an industrial society that was about to embrace the principals of scientific management, the benefits of hierarchical organizations, and experience an explosion in access to knowledge.

Education and Influences

Bachelor's degree from Doane College in Crete Nebraska (1921)

Master's degree from University of Nebraska (1923)

Doctorate from the University of Chicago (1927)

Ralph Tyler was strongly influenced by his father (a minister) and three Professors.

  1. George S. Counts (Professor of Educational Sociology) felt that scholarship should be incorporated with content knowledge.
  2. Herbert Brownell (Chair, Secondary Education at University of Nebraska) advocated for teaching to be viewed as a series of formal steps.
  3. Werrett Wallace Charters (Director, Commonwealth Teacher Training Study) was the author of the book "Curriculum Construction".

Work Life

Ralph Tyler began teaching high school at the age of 19 and became an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina by the age of 25. From 1933 to 1942, Tyler served as the director of evaluation for The Eight-Year Study. In 1949 he published the book, "Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction". This publication became known as The Tyler Rationale.

Impact on Best Practices

As director of evaluation for the 8 year study, Tyler argued that high-stakes tests would not collect the most important data (a novel thought for the time).

In the Tyler Rationale, he presented four questions that have guided our efforts at curriculum development for the last 50+ years.

  1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
    • This question has led us to develop goals and objectives.
  2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
    • This question requires that we consider the validity of our instruction, it's feasibility, the impact on student thinking, and relevance to student needs or interests.
  3. How can they be organized?
    • This question focuses attention on school organization and issues related to student grouping.
  4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?
    • This question is all about assessment!

This work gave educators a sequential formula for connecting curriculum, assessment, and learning outcomes.

Problems or Failures

Unfortunately, the recommendations for change that came from the 8 year study were overlooked because America was too focused on WWII to focus on schools.

Other Interesting Facts

Throughout his life, Ralph Tyler served as the Education adviser to six American presidents.  The ideas presented by Ralph Tyler impacted the work of many educators who followed. If Tyler wasn't the Center of the Educational Universe, who was?

Impact on Others

John Lounsbury -

"[The eight-year study] still stands today as the most comprehensive, long-range, experimental educational research study ever conducted in school settings, and its lessons are many and as pertinent today as they ever were."

"A sound case can be made for claiming that the middle school movement is simply the rebirth of progressive education. Although ostensibly buried with the demise of the Progressive Education Society in 1955, the ideals have remained very much alive although largely out of the limelight."

Finder and Gates -

"Ralph Tyler (1902-94) became one of the most important figures in twentieth-century education by pursuing the logic of this seemingly simple idea. You cannot evaluate something unless you know what it is meant to do.... As Tyler toured the classrooms of America he regularly found that teaching was being evaluated without any reflection on its purpose.

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe -

Begin Chapter 1 of their 2007 book, "Schooling by design: Mission, action, and achievement" with a Ralph Tyler quote that reads in part:

"These educational objectives become the criteria by which materials are selected, content is outlined, instructional procedures are developed, and tests and examinations are prepared."


Adventure in American Education Volume I: The Story of the Eight-Year Study [Reprinted book]. Retrieved May 18, 2009, from The Eight-Year Study Project Web site: http://www.8yearstudy.org.


Animated Atlas [Timeline]. Retrieved May 18, 2009, from American History Timeline 1780-2005 Web site: http://www.animatedatlas.com/timeline.html.


Finder, M. & Gates, H. L. (2004). Educating America: How Ralph W. Tyler taught America to teach. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Publishing Group.


Lipka, R. P., Lounsbury, J. H., Toepfer, C. F., Vars, G. F., Alessi, S. P., & Kridel, C. (1998). The eight-year study revisited: Lessons from the past for the present. Columbus: National Middle School Association.


Parkay, F. W. & Hass G. (2000). Curriculum planning:  A contemporary approach (7th edition). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


Pollock, J. E. (2007). Improving student learning: One teacher at a time. Alexandria: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).


Standford University News Service. (1994). Ralph Tyler, one of century's foremost educators, dies at 91 [News Release]. retrieved May 18, 2009, from The Stanford University Web site: http://news.stanford.edu/pr/94/940228Arc4425.html.


Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2007). Schooling by design: Mission, action, and achievement. Alexandria: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).



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