Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Middle Grades Education - Social Studies (Ed.D)


Secondary and Middle Grades Education

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Erin Adams

Second Advisor

Dr. Guichun Zong

Third Advisor

Dr. Camille Sutton-Brown



Despite over a century of advocacy by social studies scholars and professionals and the development of curricular resources to promote inquiry-based learning (IBL) in K-12 social studies, inquiry is not a defining element of the K-12 social studies classroom (Saye, 2017). Teachers face significant barriers to the use of inquiry-based learning. In particular, contextual barriers such as curriculum breadth, high-stakes testing, and lack of context-specific resources are indicated (e.g., Konopack et al., 1994; Martell, 2020; Voet & Wever, 2016). However, recent research presents applications of IBL in K-12 social studies classrooms, which suggests the potential to overcome barriers. This qualitative case study explored teachers’ practices to address contextual barriers to implement inquiry in middle school (6th-8th) social studies. This study aimed to identify and describe these exemplary practices to inform professional development and learning focused on increasing the use of IBL in social studies classrooms. The study was limited to contextual barriers and potentially transferable practices. The findings reveal that teachers’ backgrounds and experiences informed their practices, contextual barriers were dynamic, and teachers’ practices addressing contextual barriers related to their knowledge of students, and long-term instructional planning, collaboration, scaffolding, and facilitation skills. Recommendations are offered for professional development and learning.