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Examining teachers’ development and implementation of compelling questions

Rebecca G.W. Mueller (School of Education, University of South Carolina Upstate, Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA)

Social Studies Research and Practice

ISSN: 1933-5415

Article publication date: 21 May 2018




The College, Career, and Civic Life Framework and recently revised social studies standards in a number of states have placed renewed emphasis on inquiry-based instruction rooted in rigorous and relevant questions, which necessitates a better understanding of how teachers develop questions capable of meeting the expectations set forth in these documents. The purpose of this paper is to examine teachers’ question-development processes and the impact of question development and implementation on their understanding of compelling questions.


This qualitative study examined how six high school civics teachers from a single Kentucky school district defined and developed compelling questions. Following recommendations for in-depth phenomenological interviews, this study implemented a three-interview sequence, each of which included a verbal report component. Additional data were generated through teacher-completed Question Development Tasks and Question Evaluation Tasks.


The findings suggest that participants’ attempts to craft questions that balanced relevance and complexity led them to engage in a deliberate, reflective question-development process. Teachers’ understandings of compelling questions were shaped by their question-development experience; however, teachers who implemented their compelling questions emerged with a more nuanced understanding of their construction and a deeper commitment to their use.


Although focused on a small group of teachers, this study provides valuable insight into teachers’ conceptions of inquiry, which may strengthen the supports teacher educators and administrators provide to those attempting to implement inquiry in their classrooms.



Mueller, R.G.W. (2018), "Examining teachers’ development and implementation of compelling questions", Social Studies Research and Practice, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 1-15.



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