Ralph Winifred Tyler Essay

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Ralph Winifred Tyler developed a theory about curricular reform, called the Tyler Rationale, that is credited with creating the field of educational evaluation and still stands as a model for planning a curriculum.

Born in Chicago, Tyler grew up in Nebraska and was a high school science teacher in Pierre, South Dakota, before earning his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1927. While working at the Bureau of Educational Research and Service at Ohio State University (1929–1938), Tyler became director of the legendary Eight-Year Study (1934–1942). Tyler then returned to the University of Chicago’s Department of Education (1938–1948) and also served as Dean of the Division of Social Sciences (1948–1953). In 1953, he became the first Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, a position he held until 1966.

In 1949, Tyler published his Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction, which went through thirty-eight printings. His theories about curriculum reform outlined in the work became known as the “Tyler Rationale,” which consisted of four basic parts:

  1. Defining appropriate learning objectives
  2. Introducing useful learning experiences
  3. Organizing learning experiences to maximize their effect
  4. Evaluating the process and revising the aspects that did not prove effective

Tyler chaired the committee that eventually developed the National Assessment of Educational Progress. He also influenced the underlying structure and guidelines for expenditures for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Tyler was the first president of the National Academy of Education, an organization he helped found.


  1. Finder, M. (2004). Educating America: How Ralph W. Tyler taught America to teach. Westport, CT: Praeger.

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