Transform professional learning for PLCs and teams with inquirED's Inquiry Foundations courses. 

Session Plan

Inquiry in the Social Studies

Why does inquiry matter in social studies? Does it require a shift in practice? Find out in this session designed for PLCs and teams.



The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework has inspired states all over the country to create standards that call for an inquiry-based approach to social studies instruction. In this Foundations Session, participants are introduced to the dimensions of the Inquiry Arc, the organizing structure of the C3 Framework. 


  • Become familiar with the C3 Framework

  • Consider the instructional shifts required for inquiry-based social studies instruction

  • Identify strengths and areas of growth in implementing the C3 framework



  • Set up the meeting space for groups of 3-4

  • Prepare to project with speakers “Using Inquiry in Social Studies,” video above

  • Make copies of the Using Inquiry in Social Studies Handout

  • Highlighters, pens, or colored pencils in red, yellow, and green (3 colors per participant, or enough to share)





  • Think-pair-share: How is Social Studies different with an inquiry-based approach?  (5 min)

  • Show the video above, “Using Inquiry in Social Studies.” 

  • Possible Discussion Prompts

    • Based on the video, how does inquiry in the social studies differ from traditional direct instruction?

    • What role do questions play in inquiry-based social studies?

    • What could be difficult for teachers in shifting to inquiry-based social studies?


Summary of the C3 Framework:

  • Dimension 1: Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries

  • Dimension 2:  Applying Disciplinary Tools and Concepts

    • Civics 

    • Economics

    • Geography

    • History

  • Dimension 3: Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence

  • Dimension 4: Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action


  • Facilitate an examination of the C3 Framework (15 min).

    • Pose the question: What parts of the C3 framework am I comfortable with? 

    • Distribute copies of the Using Inquiry in Social Studies Handout and colored highlighters/pencil.

    • Participants read and answer questions about Dimensions 1 & 2.

    • Participants highlight/underline each indicator in Dimensions 3 & 4 in red, yellow, or green:

      • Comfortable with this indicator, I currently address this in my classroom

      • Uncomfortable with this indicator, I currently do not address this in my classroom

      • Not sure



  • The questions that focus on Dimensions 1 & 2 can also be used as discussion prompts.

  • The indicators included from dimensions 3 & 4 serve as standards within inquirED curriculum.


  • Facilitate a debrief; write down responses (on the board or loose paper) to capture ideas (5 min). 

  • Small groups share out common themes among group members regarding:

    • Strengths

    • Areas for growth

    • Worries


  • Remind participants that, like any time we make a shift, everyone begins at a different place and takes a different path. Emphasize that:

    • Everyone is on their own journey, but we are all in this together

    • There will be opportunities throughout the year to reflect upon the shift in inquiry in Social Studies