This article was written as an assignment in EME6606 Advanced Instructional Design at the University of Florida in Fall 2014.

Provide a description of Tyler’s four elements of curriculum and instruction. How have these four elements influenced modern day instructional design practice?

The origins of the Tyler Rationale are based on an eight-year study sponsored by the Progressive Education Association in the 1930s (Hlebowitsh, 2013).  Tyler proposed four fundamental questions which he suggested should be answered in developing any curriculum or plan of instruction.  These are: What educational purposes should the school seek to attain? What educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes? How can these educational experiences be effectively organized? How can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?  Tyler’s rationale did not attempt to answer these questions, but rather suggested a process by which these questions could be answered during the curriculum design process (Tyler, 1949)

Identifying the purposes of education. Tyler’s premise here was that often educational programs often do not have clearly designed purposes.  So he suggests a process of developing learning objectives which takes into account studies of the learners including developmental factors, learner interests, and life experiences; studies of contemporary life including group living experiences and the values and aims of society; and specialized knowledge including worthy and usable subject matter. Tyler felt that his process would be able to guide educators regardless of differing outlooks on teaching and learning (Hlebowitsh, 2013).

Selecting learning experiences that are useful for attaining objectives.  Tyler proposed a method of developing objectives that gives teachers some discretionary space, but also provides a framework for developing learning experiences that are aligned to both content development and a behavioral or skill component.  He also proposed a set of general principles that should guide the development of learning experiences including adequate prior knowledge, student satisfaction, alignment to objectives and a wide range of students and instructor interests, adequate practice, and an understanding that learning experiences may have more than one outcome.

Organizing these experiences. Tyler discussed the process of organizing learning experiences to support each other and build upon experiences to develop long-term impact.  For this he proposes three main criteria which include continuity, sequence and integration.  In addition he discusses the elements to be organized, organizing principles, the organizing structure and a process for planning a unit of instruction (Tyler, 1949).

Evaluating the effectiveness of these learning experiences.  The finalelement in the Tyler Rationale is to evaluate the effectiveness of learning experiences. Tyler proposes a variety of appraisal tools that relevant to the purposes of instruction.  He proposed the use of observational data, interview data, questionnaires and review of student deliverables.  He also recommends that evaluation should occur both before, during and at the end of instruction, including looking at long term effects of learning to determine if learning has a lasting effect.  (Richey, Klein, & Tracey, 2001)

Discuss how early theories of instruction have shaped the traditional notions of instructional design today. Provide a couple of examples from the literature base.

Early instructional theory has given us understanding in a variety of ways that will impact the way we design and deliver instruction.  According to Richey, Klein, & Tracy (2001) early instructional theory impacts the design and management of instruction; identification of instructional objectives; analysis of learner characteristics; sequencing of objectives and activities; and section of instructional strategies.  Some of the major contributors to early learning theory include Benjamin Bloom, Jerome Bruner, John B. Carroll and Ralph Tyler. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy has helped to shape instructional design by giving us a framework for describing the hierarchical process of learning.  His layered hierarchical process of defining cognitive domains of learning as knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation gives is a framework for designing learning activities that will guide learners towards higher levels of learning (Morrison G. R., Ross, Kalman, & Kemp , 2013).

Jerome Bruner’s theories on learning supported the development of the concept of scaffolding which describes the importance of providing learner support in the early stages of learning.  Bruner’s theories include four main concepts: predisposition, structure, sequence and reinforcement (Richey, Klein, & Tracey, 2001).  Essentially he suggests that we look at learner motivation, creating a sequence of learning activities that engage and challenge the learners, but to not overwhelm them and making sure learners understand the goals of instruction.

There are many more theories of learning that we can examine to see how they have shaped traditional notions of instructional design.  Many of these have been incorporated into current practices in such a way many people do not even realize the source of the practice. 


Hlebowitsh, P. S. (2013). Forward. In R. W. Tyler, Basic principles of curriculum and instruction (pp. vii-xii). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Morrison, G., Ross, S., Kemp, J., & Kalman, H. (2012). Designing effective instruction. New York, New York: Wiley.

Reigeluth, C. (1983). The elaboration theory of instruction. In C. Reigeluth, & T. Frick, Instructional design theories and models: An overview of their current status. (pp. 335-381). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Richey, R. C., Klein, J. D., & Tracey, M. W. (2001). The Instructional Design Knowledge Base. New York, N.Y.: Routledge.

Shannon, C.E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press.

Smith, P., & Ragan, T. (2005). Instructional Design (3rd Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Tyler, R. W. (1949). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.