One-Size-Fits-All: The Traditionalist Approach to Education

Although it was developed in the early 20th century, the Traditionalist model of education is still commonly adhered to in education today––curriculum in particular. The Traditionalist model, founded by Franklin Bobbitt and Ralph Tyler, is a back-to-basics model of education––that is, the curriculum pays detailed attention to what students need to know in order to enter the workforce following their schooling. In this sense, the Traditionalist model focuses on producing skillful, well-rounded youth who are capable of serving their society.

In 1949, Ralph Tyler developed the Tyler Rationale, a simple, efficient four-step guide to curriculum and teaching and comes out of the Traditionalist approach:

  1. What educational objectives should the school seek to achieve?
  2. What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to achieve these objectives?
  3. How can these educational experiences be effectively organized?
  4. How can we determine whether these objectives are being achieved?

The Tyler Rationale is viewed as “common sense” in contemporary education for several reasons. First, it is simple––it is a straightforward, step-by-step guide for teaching. Second, the Tyler Rationale is considered “common sense” in education because it is efficient––it takes a one-size-fits-all approach. In this sense, the Tyler Rationale does not consider students individually; rather, it clumps students together in masses, and it aims to move these masses of students into the work force as quickly and as effectively trained as possible. Furthermore, the Tyler Rationale is practical because it can applied to any grade, any subject matter, and the steps will remain the same. As such, the Tyler Rationale is common pedagogical practice used in schools today. However, as analyzed in a previous post, the problem with common sense is that it goes unquestioned. So now we must ask ourselves, is this model of education still working?

While simplicity is one of the benefits of the Tyler Rationale, it is also its downfall. The Tyler Rationale paints education as black-and-white; however, I believe that education is a complex conglomeration of school, students, society, and pedagogy, and the Tyler Rationale tries to separate these parts from one another. For instance, one of the limitations of the Tyler Rationale is that it fails to consider social context. Social context is different for every school, and it includes the beliefs and expectations of the school environment, and the beliefs and expectations of the society. I believe that social context influences education; however, by removing social context from the equation, the Tyler Rationale excuses itself from difficult questions about the purpose and practice of education.

Another limitation of the Tyler Rationale is that is does not acknowledge student diversity; as aforementioned it is a one-size-fits-all approach to education. I am aware of the diversity in classrooms today in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, ability, developmental stages, learning styles and more, and I believe that these factors can influence a child’s ability to learn. I also understand that some students are at an automatic disadvantage in society simply because of their race, their gender, etc. Therefore, I believe in providing individual learners with any resources that they need in order to make up for their marginalization in society, and in order for them to be successful in their learning. In contrast, the Tyler Rationale aims to provide the same, efficient education to every student.

The Tyler Rationale was a commonly used pedagogical approach in my high school. Although it was a boring educational approach, as a student, I was successful when the Tyler Rationale was applied in my classes because I knew how to memorize and regurgitate the information that my teacher wanted to hear in order for me to receive a good grade. Furthermore, even in classes where some flexibility was given, the Tyler Rationale was still applied: The teacher sets an objective, created a plan, applied the plan, and then assessed whether students completed the objective. In this sense, I was well suited for the Traditionalist approach––or at least I knew how to play the game. However, when I first entered university, I struggled with the academic freedom that I was given because I had been so used to this systematic, ridged way of learning. In contrast, some of my classmates simply could not learn based on the Tyler Rationale because of its rigidity and its lack of attention to students’ specific learning needs. In addition, rather than adapting to meet the needs of the students, many of my teachers forced the students to comply to their way of doing things.

The Tyler Rationale does have its benefits––simplicity being one of them. Perhaps this is why the Tyler Rationale was popular, and still is a very popular pedagogical approach in schools today. However, as future educators, we must ask ourselves: Is the Tyler Rationale the be-all, end-all of education? I believe that the field of education is not static; I believe that it is always changing, and always should be changing in the best interest of the students. Is it time we made a change?

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