Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Jennifer F. Mitchell, EdD

Second Advisor

Frank LaBanca, EdD

Third Advisor

Marcia A. B. Delcourt, PhD


The purpose of this qualitative, multiple-case study was to investigate the catalysts and barriers related to implementing inquiry-based instruction in elementary school from the perspective of third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers. The participants included five teachers who were frequent inquiry users, and four teachers who were infrequent inquiry users. The subjects were interviewed about their teaching styles and beliefs about education, understandings and use of inquiry-based learning, feelings about instructional change, personal experience with inquiry as students, problem-solving preferences, and opinions about the catalysts and barriers to teacher use of inquiry. Each subject was observed and rated on the level of inquiry use on a rubric designed to measure the quality and frequency of inquiry in their lessons. A short problem-solving styles instrument was administered to search for common patterns among teachers.

Triangulation by source (high frequency and low frequency inquiry teachers) and method (observations, interviews, and problem-solving styles assessment) established trustworthiness. The themes that emerged were classified into internal and external spheres of influence. The themes related to the internal sphere of influence were beliefs about educational change, direct instruction practices, student engagement, teacher emotions, teacher knowledge of instructional practices, teacher knowledge of inquiry practices, teacher pedagogical beliefs, teacher problem-solving style, and types of questions posed. The external sphere of influence themes were age and years of teaching experience, collaboration, mandated educational change, mandated testing, parent feedback, peer pressure, professional development, program support, state standards, teacher experience with inquiry as students, and time constraints. The study found that these factors acted as catalysts and barriers to teacher use of inquiry in the classroom. The problem-solving styles instrument yielded no significant differences between the two groups of teachers, indicating that the teachers used their individual problem-solving styles to enhance their teaching in the classroom.