Curriculum- a means to an end?

The four pillars of question that Ralph W. Tyler (educator and educational policy influencer) asks in regards to educational curriculum are as follows:

  1. Determine the school’s purposes (aka objectives)
  2. Identify educational experiences related to purpose
  3. Organize the experiences
  4. Evaluate the purposes

Taken from

Just by reading through these concise points that Tyler wrote over 80 years ago, I can associate their principles with the climate of my own schools. In my high school in Melfort, we had a mantra of sorts that we knew was expected of us. “We are respectful, responsible, ready to learn!”. This was clearly an objective of the school that was meant to be know by the students. In addition to this, my school’s website (I just discovered now) has a ‘mission’ page. This housed 5 guiding principles in addition to 7 educational goals. In additional to the provincial curriculum each teacher would follow, it is clear that my school took time to contemplate the school’s purpose and had intentions of following The Tyler Model.

As I become more familiar with Tyler’s model I uncover benefits and consequences to this method of curriculum planning and execution. In the article Curriculum Theory and Practice, Smith outlines a few consequences. He takes that once an initial plan has been made there is a risk that the students will have “little or no voice” in their education, as it is pre-planned. An inquiry-based educational approach would be better set up to adapt to the classroom (or individual’s) unique educational inclinations. Another danger Smith outlines is that education may become cut-and-dry, lending no creative opportunity to the teacher or school. Smith also mentions the difficultly in accurately measuring the impact of changes, because of the nature of learning in the human brain. An unbalanced focus on objectives can eventually lead to our educators irritation, rather than pushing them on to good work.

I did also find some benefits to The Tyler Model. I see great value in teachers having access to guidelines which are reminders of their purpose. The procedure, as outlined in Smith’s article, gives 7 succinct steps which ushers curriculum planners (or educators!) in a controlled path to their goal. This sense of control slows down the process and ensures each step is taken deliberately, which is critical for such an important end product. Additionally, the ‘organizing power’ of this model is nothing to scoff at! I appreciate having a step-by-step process so I know I am addressing the necessary issues before proceeding to the next tier of the process.

New Definitions of Curriculum:

-‘an ongoing social process comprised of the interactions of students, teachers, knowledge and milieu’ ~Cornbleth

-‘A curriculum is an attempt to communicate the essential principles and features of an educational proposal in such a form that it is open to critical scrutiny and capable of effective translation into practice’. ~Stenhouse

-‘A programme of activities (by teachers and pupils) designed so that pupils will attain so far as possible certain educational and other schooling ends or objectives’ ~Grundy

This article has taught me that there is a multitude of ways to view curriculum, but also that the contemplation of this word and what it signifys is important to the future education. Four major ways curriculum can be seen are 1) praxis, 2) product, 3) process, or 4) knowledge which is to be transmitted.

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