Critique of Tyler and Wiggins

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In his book Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction, Ralph Tyler outlines four critical components of curriculum that may serve as a guide to the creation of curriculum as well as a tool for the analysis and interpretation of curriculum. The four basic components consist of educational purposes (or objectives), educational experiences (or learning activities), organization, and evaluation (Tyler, 1949, p. 1). While Tyler does speak to each of these four components, nearly half of the book is devoted to the section on objectives. For Tyler, the objectives are the starting point in the development of the curriculum and the cornerstone upon which the rest of the curriculum is shaped. Given the shifts that have occurred in education specifically and in our society in general, there was a fair amount of information that may not be applicable in our current educational situation. As I was reading, though, I found it amazing that much of what Tyler said nearly sixty years ago is relevant today. However, as I attempted to examine Tyler’s rationale from a neutral perspective, meaning not through the eyes of an educator today, but simply through the eyes of an educator, it was the section on which he devoted the majority of the book, the objectives, that I was able to critique several aspects. Two areas of criticism emerged as I further examined the objectives: time and resources and objectives versus activities.

In the creation of objectives, Tyler suggests the utilization of studies of learners and contemporary life. While I do think that this information is valuable, I question the feasibility of having the time and the resources to carry out such studies in a way that would translate into the creation of objectives. Tyler (1949) reasonably suggests that a teacher’s initial “study” should consist of an examination of the students’ cumulative records if available (p. 13). On the other hand, he also suggests studies within the community to identify issues such as dietary deficiency, physical condition, or vocational need (Tyler, 1949, p. 13). This brings several questions to mind. How often do such studies occur? The needs of a community may change fairly regularly. Does this suggest that these studies occur every year resulting in the rewriting of objectives based on the findings? Who is carrying out such studies? Often different schools within a school system serve different populations. Is this to say that each school carries out these studies making objectives a school-wide decision as opposed to a system-wide decision? If the studies are carried out on a system-wide level, how are the differences between schools addressed in the objectives? Furthermore, it appears that Tyler is suggesting not just one study to gain insight into student interests and needs, but numerous studies that address different aspects of these components. When discussing the wide range of student interests and needs, Tyler (1949) says, “it usually is necessary to plan a series of investigations into the various phases of student interests rather than to make a single study which attempts to cover all the aspects…”( p. 12). I do not think that the majority of school systems have the time or the resources to conduct such studies as frequently as would be necessary to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of each school.

Perhaps Tyler realized that some of his suggestions regarding studies of the learner and the community would be difficult to carry out on a broad scale and that is why he suggested that the teachers collect and analyze samples of data for themselves. In addition to recalling memories of problems and experiences in the teacher’s own life, Tyler (1949) also suggests examining “public opinion polls over the last two or three years to identify the areas in which citizens have little information and have ineffective attitudes” in order to identify objectives that may be implied by this data (p. 22). Again, I...
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