The adoption of problem-based inquiry of any kind is both challenging and rare. We know that teachers are the key to what curriculum students experience but reform has been slow. Yet the research literature is also filled with examples of seemingly rebellious social studies teachers who routinely implement powerful instruction in their classrooms in spite of many obstacles. This contradiction raises the fundamental question that drives all of my research: Why do some social studies teachers adopt professional knowledge for problem-based inquiry while others do not? How can researchers partner with teachers, school districts, and other educators to facilitate the development of a professional knowledge base for social studies instruction?
I am currently engaged in Phase II of The Bridging Divides Project, a multi-year curriculum development and professional development project with my colleague, Dr. Lamont Maddox, Professor at the University of North Alabama. Phase II is the initial step in producing a series of video cases featuring Mississippi teachers modeling the use of research-based instructional strategies within the context of a geographic inquiry focused on a social issue. Video cases featuring Mississippi teachers engaging in ambitious, inquiry-based instruction within diverse community contexts can yield powerful results over time as they help teachers “buy-in” to alternative ways to teach geography. Additionally, video cases of exemplary practice are not yet widely available, particularly ones that provide unit level treatment of inquiry-based curriculum centered on topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our project prioritizes inquiries that use geography as a means to help learners achieve civic learning outcomes.
The Bridging Divides Project received funding from the National Geographic Society for Phase II. Previous work was funded by the National Council for Geographic Education.