In addition to Earth Day, today is Ralph Tyler’s birthday—an important day for Learning List because of Tyler’s influence on curriculum design.  Tyler was born on April 22, 1902, and is recognized as the principal developer of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). His thinking also influenced the policies that were formalized in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. 

Tyler’s seminal work “Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction” was a best seller when it was first published in 1949.  It remains in print today and continues to influence curriculum development. The small book (just over 100 pages) lays out what has come to be known as “Tyler’s Rationale,” which asserts that effective curricula are organized around four basic questions:

  1. What educational purposes should the school seek to attain?
  2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?
  3. How can purposes be organized?
  4. How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?

Tyler’s work in “Basic Principles” reshaped educational thinking.  Prior to its publication, educators understood curriculum as an established, static program to be taught and tested. Tyler introduced the understanding that curriculum should be dynamic and student-centered, and that it should be continually evaluated and revised to ensure that students’ learning experiences are aligned with instructional objectives.

Happy Birthday Ralph Tyler, and thank you!