Elementary Teachers' Planning and Instruction of Informational Reading and Inquiry-Oriented Social Studies

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-2879-539X
Quinn, Alexa, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Paulick, Judith, CU-Curr Instr & Sp Ed, University of Virginia
Youngs, Peter, CU-Curr Instr & Sp Ed, University of Virginia

In order to be successful in school and civic life, students must develop deep, conceptual knowledge about the natural and social world. Informational reading and inquiry-oriented social studies instruction are two important sites for this learning in the elementary classroom. The purpose of this three-paper dissertation was to understand how first-year teachers plan for and enact informational reading instruction and how pre-service teachers plan for and take up learning about inquiry-oriented social studies.

Data in Paper 1 and 2 come from a four-year, longitudinal, mixed-methods study examining factors associated with novice elementary teachers’ enactment of ambitious instruction in both mathematics and English Language Arts. Findings from Paper 1 suggest that informational text instruction, which has long been underemphasized in elementary classrooms, might now occur more frequently among early-career teachers. Qualitative analysis of informational lesson segments revealed a range of practices in text-based instruction, strategy instruction, and representations of content, with the highest-quality instruction showing a combination of all three. Narrowing in on the highest-scoring lessons, Paper 2 is grounded in an activity theory framework to examine the role of teacher characteristics, school context, and curriculum use in the enactment of ambitious reading instruction. Through case studies of three teachers using the same curriculum in different contexts, findings highlight processes of adhering, adapting, and creating based on designated curricula and explore the extent to which observed ambitious instruction might be categorized as culturally relevant.

Paper 3 focuses on pre-service teacher (PST) planning for and use of the inquiry design model (IDM) in elementary social studies instruction. The data analyzed in Paper 3 come from submitted assignments, surveys, and group interviews with 29 PSTs in an elementary social studies methods course. Findings highlight successes and challenges of a scaffolded IDM planning assignment and mixed evidence of teachers using what they learned in placement classrooms. Successes include evidence of teacher learning about both social studies content and pedagogy, specifically the value of compelling questions to frame instruction. Challenges include planning for hypothetical students and difficulties resulting from an “approximation of practice” during coursework that did not align with the realities of planning in placement classrooms. In terms of uptake, PSTs were more likely to use aspects of what they learned in the course if their placement school was also promoting IDM for social studies instruction. Thematic coding led to assertions that elementary teachers face conceptual, pedagogical, cultural, and political dilemmas in their use of inquiry-oriented practices.

Collectively, these papers deepen our understanding of the conceptual and pedagogical tools that novices use to plan for instruction and suggest ways that teacher educators and other stakeholders might better prepare new teachers for the challenges of the elementary classroom.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
informational text, inquiry-oriented social studies, elementary education, instructional strategies, elementary teacher preparation, social studies methods, Inquiry Design Model, activity theory, ambitious instruction, curriculum use
Sponsoring Agency:
National Science FoundationSpencer Foundation
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