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.

Smith. (2000). Curriculum Theory and Practice, pp. I-XIII

2 thoughts on “Curriculum Development from the Traditionalist Perspective

  1. Hi Allicia, I loved that you showed both the positive and negative sides of curriculum by giving “real life” situations. To add to the negatives, giving a syllabus at the beginning of the year does not allow a teacher to change and adapt the assignments to fit the students but rather change and adapt the students to fit the assignments.
    Thanks for sharing, Sarah W.


    1. Hello Sarah!
      Thank you for your comment. I tried to address the issue you mentioned about the syllabus in my concluding paragraph. I think that students should have the opportunity to ask questions about a syllabus that is provided and make suggestions to it, and then their teacher can make changes as necessary. Or, teachers should give students different options of how they can complete an assignment (i.e visually, written, oral, etc.). By giving students choice, I think that teachers will need to make sure that they are specific with what they are expecting to be included in the assignment, but not give extremely strict guidelines so that students lose their agency.


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