Murray State Theses and Dissertations


Elementary educators are responsible for the earliest years of student learning in a public setting. The amount of content students are expected to master continues to grow in scope, and the methods that are utilized shift to align with educational research and social momentum. After a decade of Common Core policies, social studies education in elementary schools has become a deemphasized subject. Reading and math, as well as science, have taken a greater precedence in today’s classrooms.

Yet, expectations for the creation of knowledgeable and participatory citizens continue to serve as a goal in elementary schools. Conceptualization of citizenship form their initial roots in the minds of young learners. Social studies content ensures that students have an understanding and basis of civic mindedness at the elementary level. In Kentucky, social studies standards, with a foundation of inquiry, were adopted in 2019. This shift has impacted classroom teachers, particularly teachers of fifth-grade students. This study was designed to gain insight into the perceptions and experiences of fifth-grade elementary teachers’ processes for planning social studies instruction along a framework of inquiry. The methodology was conducted under a phenomenological approach, utilizing in-depth semi-structured interviews of classroom teachers. The findings of this study help to provide a contextualized view of the experiences of teachers applying inquiry-based methods in their classrooms. Teacher and student resources, literacy, teacher preparation and development, pedagogy, and the shaping of future citizens are all discussed to present the challenges, concerns, and outcomes experienced through the lens of the classroom teacher.

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Author's Keywords

social studies, inquiry, knowledge, student-centered, citizens, pedagogy, teacher preparation, elementary, literacy, instructional time

Degree Awarded

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Dissertation Committee Chair

Stephanie Sullivan

Committee Member

Eric Batts

Committee Member

Melissa Chapman

Document Type