Inquiry Lessons For Social Studies

Inquiry-Based Tasks in Social Studies

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards are being adopted by a growing number of schools across the United States and around the world. Some states, districts, and schools embrace the whole framework and standards, whilst others adopt the overall framework but alter or construct their grade-level standards following their local needs. The Inquiry Arc, which is a critical component of the framework, in either case, is an important feature of the framework.

Inquiry Arc consists of four dimensions: “one focused on questioning and inquiry; another on disciplinary knowledge and concepts relating to civics, economics, geography, and history; another on evaluating and using evidence; and a final one on communicating and taking action.” The Inquiry Arc was developed by the National Science Foundation. Students ask or are given intriguing questions, and then they study and assess the data to answer those questions, and finally, they convey their conclusions.

Middle school pupils, for example, might be asked the question “Can disease transform the world?” to stimulate their investigation of the Black Death during the Middle Ages. From questions such as “What was the Black Death?” and “How did the Black Death affect individuals and communities during its period?” they move on to investigate geography and history via the use of maps and other materials.

After that, they produce an argumentative essay in response to the original question, drawing on the sources they have studied for support. Additionally, they may develop a public service broadcast to inform others on how they can evaluate the effectiveness of their school or community in preventing and controlling the spread of disease.

Inquiry is built into the C3 framework and standards by default, as follows: It is essential that students participate in inquiry practices to effectively implement the C3.

For tasks, we use the INQUIRY DESIGN MODEL.

The Black Death exercise is an example of an inquiry-based task that makes use of the Inquiry Design Model (IDM), which was developed by some of the C3’s core writers and is based on the C3’s inquiry-based task model. In their words, these projects are “larger than a lesson, smaller than a unit,” which makes them ideal for teachers who want to incorporate inquiry-based learning but are hesitant to devote a whole unit to the endeavor. The following are examples of IDM responsibilities:

It is a captivating question that will pique the interest of students and will address concerns that are present in one or more of the academic fields in social studies It should elicit critical thinking from students and be consistent with instructional objectives.
Specific standards from the C3 framework are discussed here.
An activity to set the stage for the question to elicit student investigation.
Supporting questions that are aligned with the compelling question are provided. They are particular and content-based, and they help students through the process of being able to respond to intriguing questions.
Formative assessments are used to determine whether or not students understand the subject covered by the supporting questions. Student learning can be assessed by brief paragraphs, graphic organizers, or other traditional methods.
Supporting questions are backed up by sources, which are typically primary sources.
A summative performance task that is argumentative is being evaluated today. Students must respond to the compelling question by providing evidence to support their points of view and reasoning.
Students have the choice of taking informed action in the world around them through this program.
A simple example involves pupils learning economics standards by researching the compelling question “What choices do we make with our money?” to answer the question. They look at short readings and photos and then write a brief argument based on what they have learned. They talk about the advantages and disadvantages of saving and spending money, and they have the opportunity to take informed action, such as creating a poster outlining ways that families can save money regularly.

A focused inquiry is another type of IDM that has been developed. The topic “Did the attack on Pearl Harbor unifies America?” is an intriguing one for high school students to consider. Students respond to a single supporting question and complete a single performance activity before writing short claims and counterclaim arguments to defend their positions. The next suggests a modification to their textbook that is based on the sources they discovered while working on an extension project. This will take one or two class periods, as opposed to five or six for the elementary school economics example above.


Project-based learning (PBL) is another excellent method of putting the C3 framework into action. PBL makes use of inquiry and incorporates characteristics that encourage participation, such as authenticity, high-quality public products, and the ability to express oneself and make choices.

Implementing the C3 framework using PBL, on the other hand, may provide certain difficulties. Teachers may not wish to convert an entire unit into PBL, or the unit itself may not be a good fit for PBL, for a variety of reasons. In any event, an inquiry-based activity such as IDM has many of the basic features of problem-based learning (PBL): It evaluates critical knowledge and skills, poses a tough issue, and necessitates more investigation. It may also enable students to engage in more public service if they use the extension assignment to educate themselves on the subject. Additionally, it is possible to include an inquiry-based work within a PBL course as an additional means of assessing student learning: When students are working together on the final result of a project-based learning assignment, an inquiry-based task is an excellent way for teachers to assess individual students’ mastery of the subject and skills required for the project.

When considering PBL and smaller inquiry-based projects, teachers must rely on their professional judgment to determine what is appropriate for student learning in each situation. Both have the potential to boost student engagement while also being utilized to assess deeper understanding.