top of page

An inquirED Blog

Elementary Social Studies | What is Informed Action?

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

Informed Action | Elementary Social Studies

The Shift Towards Inquiry in Elementary Social Studies

There has been a tremendous movement towards using inquiry in elementary social studies curriculum and instruction thanks to the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework.

The C3 Framework is an innovative approach to social studies instruction that emphasizes inquiry-driven learning. The framework divides the inquiry process into four key dimensions:

  1. Dimension 1: Developing questions and planning inquiries.

  2. Dimension 2: Applying disciplinary concepts and tools.

  3. Dimension 3: Evaluating sources and using evidence.

  4. Dimension 4: Communicating conclusions and taking informed action.

It's important to note that inquiry isn't only about skills – it's also focused on deep knowledge building. While the process of inquiry equips students with critical thinking and analytical abilities, the social studies knowledge they build through sustained investigation is deeper and more connected.

Aligning inquirED's Inquiry Journeys with the C3 Framework

inquirED's Unit Structure & the C3 Inquiry Arc
inquirED's Unit Structure & the C3 Inquiry Arc

Inquiry Journeys, inquirED's elementary social studies curriculum, is intricately crafted around the principles of the C3 Framework:

  • Launch (Dimension 1): This phase is all about sparking curiosity. It involves developing essential questions that guide the entire inquiry process.

  • Investigation (Dimensions 2 & 3): During this phase, students dive deep into the content, applying disciplinary concepts, evaluating sources, and gathering evidence.

  • Action (Dimension 4): This final phase is where students use their findings to communicate their conclusions and take informed actions that make a real-world impact.

Find out more about the connections between Inquiry Journeys and the C3 Framework.

A Deep Dive into Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action.

Dimension four of the C3 Framework requires students to communicate and critique conclusions — and take informed action. Specifically, we will discuss how inquirED defines informed action.

Students take Informed Action when they use the key findings from a sustained investigation of content to design and implement an action that impacts the world in a meaningful way. Informed Action serves a purpose beyond assessing what students know or don't know — it helps students transform their content knowledge into action and connect it with their lived experience.

Informed action requires students to use what they've learned to inspire, change behaviors, solve a problem, or serve an audience.

Sweet Spot of Informed Action | inquirED
Sweet Spot of Informed Action | inquirED

We like to use the Venn Diagram above when we talk about informed action, because it displays how Informed Action is the "sweet spot" between just "being informed" and just "taking action" When students are in that sweet spot, the challenge, purpose, and audience of student action come together to create meaning and deepen learning.

If students are only informed during an inquiry, they might pursue an Inquiry Question, but only be challenged to show their understanding to their teacher for a letter grade on a test or deliverable. And if students only take action, then their challenge might be limited to participating in an activity that’s vaguely related to their learning, even if they are addressing a public audience.

It’s not that there’s no purpose for a test, stand-alone project, or activity; during an inquiry, they can serve a valuable purpose to assess learning, engage students, and check for understanding. But these can’t be the point of an inquiry.

When an inquiry promotes informed action, however, the point becomes clear and resonates with students. They identify a challenge that is informed by their learning and addresses a real-world problem—one that matters to their community and connects to their lived experience. Their audience and impact is outside the classroom as well, whether it’s students in a different grade or outside their school building. While they may receive a grade, the grade isn’t the point of their action. Students are trying to have an authentic impact on the world.

The real-world connection is powerful, making learning more engaging, and content more memorable.

About inquirED

inquirED was founded by teachers with the mission of bringing inquiry-based social studies to every classroom. Inquiry Journeys, inquirED’s elementary social studies curriculum, is used in schools and districts across the country to help students develop deep social studies content knowledge and build the inquiry skills that are essential for a thriving democracy.


bottom of page