Now available from NCSS and C3 Teachers, Inquiry Design Model: Building Inquiries in Social Studies is a comprehensive, in-depth guide for teachers who want to build classroom inquiries based on the C3 Framework.

The book walks teachers through the IDM Design Path (see below) advice on how to formulate compelling and supporting questions, build disciplinary knowledge, and develop the ability of students to evaluate evidence, construct arguments, and take informed action.




The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for State Social Studies Standards (National Council for the Social Studies, 2013) ushered in an important opportunity to articulate a common vernacular for and a curricular approach to inquiry. Featuring four distinct but inter-connected dimensions, the C3 Inquiry Arc lays out a process for supporting students to ask questions about our social world, use concepts and tools from the disciplines that make up social studies, analyze and argue about what they have learned, and apply that knowledge to the challenges that face our world today.

While the C3 Framework was an important step in clarifying what inquiry should ideally look like in social studies, teachers understandably wanted more. Teachers have rightfully wondered: How do I teach the Civil War or the Civil Rights Movement or the Gilded Age through inquiry?  How do the four dimensions apply to wealth inequality or teaching the three branches of government or push and pull patterns of immigration?  What are the interim steps students need to take to answer a compelling question with an evidenced-based essay?  And, how in the world do students take action on topics as distant and abstract as ancient history, World War II, and the like?  Soon after the publication of the C3 Framework, we became acutely aware of the challenges teachers faced in visualizing the four dimensions as curriculum—the language of classrooms.

The opportunity to create curriculum using the spine of the Inquiry Arc came in 2014 when we created the New York Toolkit Project (, a set of 84 curriculum units or inquiries (six each at grades K-11, twelve at grade 12) that aligned to the newly published social studies content standards in New York. The New York Toolkit Project allowed us to operationalize a curricular vision for the C3 Framework we now call the Inquiry Design Model or IDM (Grant, Swan & Lee, 2015). Over the course of a year, with the help of a committed and innovative group of K-12 teachers, we kicked the tires of IDM trying to hone a way to do curriculum that would elevate and further articulate inquiry but not annoy teachers with over-prescriptions and other lesson plan tedium. And, we did our fair share of kicking.

In 2017, we published our first book on IDM, Inquiry-Based Practice in Social Studies Education: Understanding the Inquiry Design Model (Grant, Swan & Lee, 2017) in which we outlined the core elements of inquiry—questions, tasks and sources—that appear within the blueprint. The blueprint is the centerpiece of IDM allowing designers to represent an inquiry’s compelling and supporting questions, formative and summative tasks, and disciplinary sources. We confine the blueprint to one page as it provides a visual snapshot of an inquiry, devoid of the day-to-day detailed procedures that often weigh down lesson and unit plans.

Although teachers appreciate a theoretical grounding in inquiry’s key elements, early IDM adopters/designers persisted in wanting to know how do you actually create inquiries using IDM.  Heading their advice, we went began to mine our own process for creating inquiries in an effort to reveal the sticking points that teachers encountered when trying to create their own.

We wrote this design book wanting to understand, how do you really (we mean, really) write an inquiry? Where do you start and how do you finish?  What ideas come in-between? How do we teach others to do the IDM without falling down the rabbit hole of making things too complex, too convoluted, or too esoteric?  Could we be as clear about a process for developing an IDM as we were in defining the C3 Inquiry Arc? As methods instructors, we couldn’t help but tackle this challenge and this book is the product of a 4-year conversation (and on some days, argument) about how exactly we do IDM.

Kathy Swan
John Lee
SG Grant