Determining Curriculum Ends with the Rational and Futuristic Models
by Chase Young

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The rational model was developed by Ralph Tyler (1950). It is a linear model for determining curriculum ends. It is built on four basic elements: objectives, activities, organization, and evaluation.

First, objectives need to be developed. Objectives are concerned with the learner, the social condition, and the subject matter. Objective should include some sort of observable behavior, distinguish a context, and contain a subject matter goal. The subject matter goals need to be derived from experts in the field, thereby requiring educators and curriculum specialists to consult with subject matter specialists.

The objectives should be based on function and value in the current society. It should also be written based on its comprehensiveness. All encompassing objectives are more useful. Consistency is learning is important, therefore objective should not be enforced if they threaten to contradict existing information. Finally, the objective needs to be attainable and feasible.

After the objective is written, appropriate learning activities are established. Once established, the activities need to be organized into some sequential order that is most conducive for learning. After the activities are implemented, the learning should be evaluated. The evaluation determines how well the students have met an objective.

This method, unfortunately, has an issue with conciliatory eclecticism, an assumption that multiple philosophies can be combined to create a comprehensive model. Tyler includes three apposing conceptions in his objectives. Humanist would agree with the focus on the learner. However, the inclusion of social condition fits with the social reconstructinists. Finally, the expressed need for subject matter specialists is an infusion of the academic conceptualization.

Further, each item of the objective is never assigned any value or weight. Which of the three are most important? An answer to this might greatly influence how an objective is taught.

While Tyler focused on what was known, a different means for determining curriculum ends focuses on the unknown. In Tyler’s model, learning is based on the knowledge of specialists, current social conditions, and current types of learners. The futuristic model accepts inevitable change, and attempts to prepare for it (McNeil, 2009).

The future will be different. This model takes this notion seriously. The futuristic model begins with an interdisciplinary seminar. The purpose of the seminar is for educators and other specialists in various fields to discuss how future development will affect curriculum.

After the initial seminar, the group reconvenes to make judgments based on the projected changes in the future. The projected changes are ordered by importance. The team decides which are most pressing. They also discuss their probability of actually happening.

The next task is acceptance for creating the future. Now that potential changes have been ranked by importance and probability, the team decides how schools should respond. Again, probability is weighed, and the curriculum is scrutinized. The team decides what to add to the curriculum and which aspects will be outdated.

Finally, the team writes a scenario. They decide how the changes will affect the learners; specifically, they speculate if future students will like the changes. Next, they have to speculate on changes to subject matter, and resulting changes on instruction.
To come to a consensus, the Delphi Method is employed. Questionnaires are sent out to obtain the public’s goals and objectives for the future. It appears there is a need for the futuristic model, as times change so quickly, especially in the digital age. However, there are still issues with this model.

The first issue is rather obvious: no one can predict the future. People can speculate, even make educated guesses, but no on truly knows.

Another issue stems from curriculum complexity. There are so many forces on curriculum; it would be difficult to determine future additions and current deletions. Partly because of its complexity, and partly because of human nature, people find it hard to make choices. The final issue is just that—decisions, especially tough ones with longstanding impact, are difficult to make. 
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© 2011 Chase J. Young. All rights reserved.