Inquiry Method

Social Studies Inquiry Method
by Elise A. Guyette

Everyone knows about the scientific method, but is there a social scientific method? If social studies is the integration of various disciplines, then its methodology must be an integration of the lenses that professionals in those disciplines use to examine a topic. This inquiry model (below) is an attempt to identify questions used by professional in history and the social sciences. Teachers can then use those questions as building blocks for a social study of any topic in any time and place. Click on each section of the circle below to choose the questions just right for your topic and grade level. Helping your students answer them will result in a focused, integrated social studies unit full of stimulating content, deep concepts, and exciting activities.

Try putting a topic you teach in the center. It is immediately surrounded by Critical Evaluation. Click the smaller circle and you will find critical evaluation questions from which to choose when building your unit. You should always have questions from this section. Vermont’s standards ask students to critically examine data, knowledge and points of view. They ask us to look at the ways societies work and examine problems and issues from various perspectives. They de-emphasize texts and ask us to use primary resources of all kinds. The standards encourage students to grapple with perennial human problems and interrogate complex concepts such as democracy, human rights, wants & needs, conflict theory, relationships between people & environment, culture & identity.

Grappling with Vermont’s standards gives students and teachers opportunities to develop the major skills and concepts important to historians and social scientists. Concepts are abstract ideas that must be built slowly and repeatedly in various contexts. Spiralling concepts is the only spiralling promoted by our standards.The standards are divided into seven sections: History, Geography, Citizenship, Diversity & Unity, Economics, Conflict, and Identity. Each section is a lens through which to view and study the times, places, events, and people of history and the contemporary world. We must give students ample opportunities to practice and understand these major areas of the Social Studies. Choose the lens(es) most important to your topic, click and discover important questions to help focus your social studies!

All of these standards (or lenses) can be applied to topics from various times and places in Vermont, the United States, and throughout the world.