Social Efficiency Ideology

Curriculum development from a traditionalist perspective is widely used across schools in Canada and other countries. Can you think about: (a) The ways in which you may have experienced the Tyler rationale in your own schooling? (b) What are the major limitations of the Tyler rationale/what does it make impossible? (c) What are some potential benefits/what is made possible?

The Tyler Rationale expands on Franklin Bobbitt’s Social Efficiency ideology, by creating “four basic questions every educator must answer when creating curriculum or instructional programs”. The four questions center around:

  1. What educational goal are you trying to meet?
  2. What methods or techniques will you use to achieve or meet these goals?
  3. How will you organize these techniques?
  4. How do we evaluate whether we have met these goals?

A major component to the Social Efficiency ideology is that the development of educational goals, the techniques used and the evaluation methods all focus on changes in human behaviour.  Tyler states that “education is the process of changing the behavior of people” and therefore curriculum centres around skills and activities that can be performed and observed.

My experience in school with the Tyler rationale varied from teacher to teacher, and depending on the subject. Some teachers, both in elementary and high school were highly focused on achieving certain educational goals and less focused on discovery learning. Additionally, some subjects tend to follow the Tyler rationale more closely as they are repetition based. For example, in my math classes we would do “speed quizzes” where the goal was to answer as many basic operation math problems as possible. This covers two of the key elements of the Tyler rationale: efficiency and learning through practice. Another example, is in elementary language arts classes where we developed our printing and cursive writing skills. We would fill pages with each letter until we “mastered” it and then combining the letters together. Both of these examples are skills that I have continued to build upon throughout my education. This reinforces Schiro’s statement, that “learners acquire complex behaviors gradually by slowly building up ever more complex repertoires of behavior out of simpler ones”. They were also done to “prepare the individual to lead a meaningful adult life in society”. Basic math and writing are fundamental skills that are used often throughout our life. In other subjects, such as Physics, Biology and Chemistry there was more opportunity to discover in the classroom through learning experiences. However, I was still evaluated in a traditional manner through assignments and tests. Neither method is better than the other, they each have their place.

There are numerous limitations of the Tyler rationale. First is, how it views children as a means to an end. It does not see children as individuals, rather it sees the adult as being the ultimate goal. As said by Schiro, Social Efficiency educators concern is, “always the future learning of the child rather than the present growing of the child”. Being so focused on the “end” results causes the individual needs of the child to be overlooked. It fails to recognize that even though a child may not have achieved the “goal”, some growth will still have occurred. It needs to be viewed less as a fail and more as an incomplete. Additionally, the Tyler’s rationale creates a society that lacks the ability to think freely, but rather are able to regurgitate facts and “tow the company line”. Tyler’s rationale focuses on efficiency, and with that comes little discovery/inquiry learning as this takes more time. This discovery/inquiry learning is crucial in developing a deeper understanding of the material and how it can be applied in “real life”. Creating citizens who lack this ability are often unable to apply the skills they have learned to benefit and improve society, which is a major objective in the Tyler rationale.

There are also numerous benefits to the Tyler rationale. One in particular resonated with me, as I can clearly see the merit in it. I believe at the foundation level (i.e. learning to read, write, and do basic math) using the techniques in the Tyler rationale is important. Starting with a simple task, building on it once you have mastered that task, learning through practice, and repetition aid in providing us this foundation. Like a house, if you lack a foundation the building/system will collapse on itself.

There is a time and a place where Social Efficiency education has merit. However, like anything, better results are achieved when other ideologies are used in conjunction with each other. As the needs and wants of society change, educators must continue to expand how we approach teaching and learning.

Social Efficiency Ideology by Michael Schiro



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