Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Kathy Swan


The present qualitative study used socio-cultural theory (Wertsch, 1998), pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987), and reflective practice (Schön, 1983) to examine how social studies teachers define and develop inquiry questions. Existing literature reflects a long tradition of equating inquiry with high quality social studies instruction (e.g., Barton & Levstik, 2004; Bruner, 1977; Griffin, 1942) and arguing that successful inquiry hinges on an engaging question (Barton & Levstik, 2004; Grant, 2003), but relatively little attention has been paid to how teachers characterize and develop questions for use with inquiry (Grant & Gradwell, 2010). The main research question was: How do high school social studies teachers understand the role questions play in inquiry? Supporting questions included: (1) How do teachers define inquiry? (2) What traits do teachers attribute to questions used for inquiry? (3) How do standards impact teachers’ understandings of questions used for inquiry? (4) How do teachers approach developing questions used for inquiry? Data included transcripts from semi-structured interviews, field notes from verbal report exercises, and documents from teacher completed tasks. Results indicated that teachers identified questioning as an important inquiry skill and civic practice, identified student relevance and complexity as key attributes of inquiry questions, and approached the development of inquiry questions in a deliberate and reflective way. Additionally, results indicated that a proposed state social studies standards document provided teachers with useful terminology and that experience developing and implementing inquiry questions positively influenced teachers’ comfort with inquiry. This study sheds light on the potential of cultural tools to influence teachers’ curricular and instructional decisions. Further consideration of how teachers develop and implement inquiry questions may offer insight into the presence and success of questions and inquiry in social studies classrooms.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)