In college, Tyler went to school during the day and worked as a telegraph operator for the railroad at night. He received his bachelor's degree in 1921 at the age of 19 from Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. His first teaching job was as a high school science teacher in Pierre, South Dakota. In 1923, Tyler made a science test for high school students, which made him "see the holes in testing only for memorization." He also earned his masters degree from the University of Nebraska in 1923 and his PhD. from the University of Chicago in 1927.
His graduate work at the University of Chicago connected him with notable Charles Judd and W.W. Charters, whose ideas influenced Tyler’s later work in curriculum development and evaluation. Tyler’s first appointment was at the University of North Carolina in 1927, where he worked with state teachers to improve curricula. Later in 1927, Tyler joined the faculty at Ohio state where her developed more to his innovative approach to testing. In 1929,he followed Charters to Ohio State University, where Charters was the director of the university's Bureau of Educational Research. Tyler accepted a position as the director of accomplishment testing under Charters. Tyler was also tasked with assisting Ohio State University faculty in improving their teaching and increasing student retention at the university and made an early name for himself in this capacity. He is credited with coining the term evaluation in an educational sense as it pertains to aligning measurement and testing with educational purpose or objectives. Because his concept of evaluation consisted of gathering comprehensive evidence of learning, rather than just paper and pencil tests, Tyler might even be viewed as an early proponent of what is known today as portfolio assessment.
Tyler headed the Evaluation Staff of the Eight-Year Study (1933-1941). This study was a national study, involving 30 secondary schools and 300 colleges and universities, and was geared toward concerns about narrowness and rigidity in high school curriculum. He first gained national prominence in 1938 when he was lured by Robert Hutchins from Ohio State University to the University of Chicago to continue his work in the Eight-Year Study there. Tyler became the chairman of the Department of Education and later the dean of the Division of Social Sciences.
A decade after completing his work with the Eight Year Study, Tyler formalized his thoughts on viewing, analyzing and interpreting the curriculum and instructional program of an educational institution in Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction (1949[[). This book was a [[bestseller and has since been reprinted in 36 editions, shaping curriculum and instructional design to this day. The book laid out a deceptively-simple structure for delivering and evaluating instruction consisting of four parts that became known as the Tyler Rationale:
In this book, Tyler describes learning as taking place through the action of the student. “It is what he does that he learns, not what the teacher does” (Tyler p. 63).
Tyler advised President Truman on reforming the curriculum at the service academies in 1952 and, under Eisenhower, chaired the President’s Conference on Children and Youth. The Johnson Administration used Tyler’s advice to shape many of its education bills and programs.
Tyler was named founding director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 1954 and held that position through 1966. The center was originally envisioned as a five-year project, but eventually became an ongoing independent institution that would eventually claim to have supported over 2,000 leading scientists and scholars. As a member of the governing board, Tyler is credited with playing a critical role in determining the character of the center as a new type of educational institution.
In 1964 the Carnegie Corporation asked Tyler to chair the committee that would eventually develop the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 1969. Before this time, Tyler wrote, "no comprehensive and dependable data about the educational attainments of our [young] people" were available.
Tyler formally retired in 1967 from the Center of Advanced Study, but he later became president of the System Development Foundation in San Francisco in 1969, which supported basic research in information sciences. He was also on many other commissions, committees, and foundations. He was on the National Advisory Council on Education for disadvantaged children, a panel to study SAT scores, and was also the chairman on the Exploratory Committee on Assessing Progress on Education.
After his retirement, Tyler maintained an active life as a lecturer and consultant. He was a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and he advised on evaluation and curriculum in Ghana, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel and Sweden. Tyler was reported to have remained strongly optimistic about the future of education, right up until the end of his life. Tyler died of cancer on February 18, 1994 at the St. Paul's Health Care center in San Diego. He was 91.
*Stanford University. Ralph Tyler, one of century's foremost educators, dies at 91. Retrieved from 02/03/06 from http://www.stanford.edu/dept/news/pr/94/940228Arc4425.html