Using Investigation and Discussion to Inquire about Issues in Primary Social Studies, pp. 3 of 15

Inquiry models for teaching primary social studies

In the National Institute of Education (NIE), Singapore, student teachers in the Bachelor’s Degree programme (primary track) and taking social studies as their third curricular studies subject, are exposed to a myriad of discussion and investigation models in their social studies teaching methods courses. Three inquiry models taught will be shared in this section as they are suitable for implementation. These are the Colin Marsh’s (2001) investigation model, Diana Hess’ (2009) town meeting model and David Johnson and Roger Johnson’s (1999) structured academic controversy model.

Marsh’s Investigation Model

The investigation model by Colin Marsh (2001) comprises eight steps and these are: a) tuning in, b) deciding directions, c) organising ourselves, d) finding out, e) sorting out, f) drawing conclusions, g) considering social action, and h) reflection and evaluation. The purpose of tuning in is to identify and define the issue whereas the goal for deciding direction is to generate hypotheses. In organising ourselves, it is about organising an approach to the investigation and in finding out, the focus is on developing student understanding from the data collection. Sorting out is a time for students to process, analyse and even refine the issue. Drawing conclusions is where students share their understandings with others and this is followed by social action, a time whereby students identify and even implement an action that emerged from the inquiry. Lastly, students get to reflect on the strengths and areas for improvement in their investigation during the reflection and evaluation. This step is essential if students were to become self-directed learners. The steps in the model are reflective of actual research processes and are a useful guide for inquiry of a topic, an issue or a problem. The main appeal of the model is that the advocacy for social action after investigation can be considered an important social studies goal that contributes towards the development of active citizenry.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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