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  The 1930s:
Behavioral Objectives and Formative Evaluation

The Eight Year Study

In 1933 the Eight Year Study was begun at Ohio State University by Ralph Tyler, a member of the Bureau of Educational Research.

The study had been designed in response to postwar pressures to revise the prevailing college preparatory high school curriculum in order to meet the needs of increasing numbers of students who in earlier years would not have gone beyond elementary school.

The Eight Year Study sought to determine if students completing alternative high school curricula could succeed in college; thus an eight year study was required in order for the students to complete both the four years of high school and the four years of college.

Thirty public and private secondary schools developed alternative curricula as part of the research. Tyler was recruited to work on the study because he recently had been working with Ohio State faculty to develop tests of intended learning outcomes which he called objectives.

The Eight Year Study is important because of two reasons. First, the study served to refine the procedures for writing instructional objectives. The study confirmed that objectives could be clarified if written in terms of student behaviors, hence the current name, behavioral objectives. Second, it was essential during the study to ensure that the alternative curricula were implemented as planned. Therefore, the objectives and their assessment were used to revise and refine the new curricula until they produced "an appropriate level of achievement." Though the term would not be coined for almost thirty five years, this process would come to be known as "formative evaluation." It is clear that Tyler clearly understood the need for continuous evaluation within the process of creating instruction designed to produce specific outcomes.