Inquiry Learning in the Primary Social Science Classroom: Differentiating Practice to Meet Student Needs

Inquiry Learning in the Primary Social Science Classroom: Differentiating Practice to Meet Student Needs

Ruth Fairbanks (University of Southern Queensland, Australia) and Catherine Andrew (Southern Cross University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2901-0.ch007
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Inquiry learning is considered more effective than traditional teacher-led learning. Whilst teachers espouse ideals of inquiry learning, actual implementation and practice remains unclear, requiring further study. Inquiry learning research in primary schools is mostly contained to maths and science. Few studies have investigated how primary school teachers differentiate practice to meet the needs of students with learning difficulties. Even fewer studies have investigated primary school teachers' implementation of Humanities and Social Science (HASS) inquiry learning. This chapter investigates primary school teachers' practices of implementing HASS inquiry learning, including strategies used to support students with learning difficulties, and school based factors impacting the implementation of inquiry learning. One Queensland regional school was identified using a theory-based sampling method. Teachers were recruited using criterion sampling method. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews and demographic questionnaires; and HASS unit plans of three teachers (n=3) were synthesised into three themes: (i) teachers described a sense of professional fulfilment when implementing inquiry learning; (ii) teachers implemented specific strategies including explicit instruction to differentiate learning for students with learning difficulties; and (iii) school-based factors including leadership endorsement impact on successful implementation of inquiry learning in a primary school. Data obtained from the single school and small sample limit generalisability, therefore future research regarding teachers' implementation of HASS inquiry learning is recommended. Identification of strategies that support students with learning difficulties, and the impact of HASS inquiry learning on achievement amongst students with and without learning difficulties, are also recommended.
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Literature Review

A two-phase literature review strategy was implemented for this exploratory study: (i) preliminary review to identify a gap in inquiry learning literature; and (ii) an in-depth literature review. Phase one of the literature review identified a gap in contemporary inquiry learning literature that became the focus of this study. Phase two of the literature review was conducted alongside data collection and analysis. Charmaz (2014) and others (Creswell, 2013; Maxwell, 2013; Punch & Oancea, 2014; Yin, 2009, 2014) recommend when conducting exploratory research to delay the in-depth literature review until findings emerge from early data analysis, thereby including the findings from the literature review as additional data. The aim of delaying the review was to: (i) minimize the impact and influence of the literature on the research process; (ii) allow categories and concepts to emerge from and be grounded in the data; (iii) maintain researcher objectivity and openness to the emergence of research findings; and (iv) enable valuable information from the reflection on professional practice to inform the research planning process (Charmaz, 2014; Maxwell, 2013; Punch & Oancea, 2014).

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