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Editor’s Note
: There are many ways to learn, and certain techniques are associated with specific subject matters. For example, inquiry teaching is associated with the study of science to formulate and text hypotheses. Inquiry learning is also valuable for other subjects such as social studies because it promotes curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, and independent learning.

Assessment of Inquiry Teaching Competencies
of Social Studies Teachers in Junior Secondary Schools in South Central Nigeria

Ede O. S. Iyamu, Celia O. Otote


Though there is abundant justification for the inquiry teaching of social studies in Nigerian secondary schools, the competencies of the teachers to employ this instructional mode is doubtful. To assess such competencies, this study sampled 100 professionally trained social studies teachers from secondary schools in South Central Nigeria for observation in an instructional setting. It used a 20-item four-point rating scale covering important skills and activities related to inquiry teaching. On the analysis of data, it was found that the overall inquiry-teaching competence of the teachers was significantly below the acceptable level. It was also found that trained non-graduate teachers proved to be more competent in the inquiry teaching of Social Studies than the trained graduate teachers. The recommendations made include the need for effective Social Studies teacher education programme, in-service training and regular workshops for the teachers to update their knowledge of innovative pedagogy.

Keywords: social studies, inquiry teaching, teaching competencies, teaching skills, Nigeria


The nature and objectives of Social Studies in Nigerian secondary schools emphasize students’ familiarity with their physical and social environment; improved social relationships and interactions; skills and ability to thing reflectively, critically, creatively and independently all of which are relevant to problem solving. As a totality of man’s experiences in the society and a problem – approach discipline, it becomes imperative to emphasize students’ active participation in the learning process (Akintola, 2000). This is the hallmark of inquiry teaching (SSCED, 2000). Consequently, there is now a growing emphasis on the use of inquiry technique in the teaching of this subject in Nigerian schools.

There are a number of variations in conceptualizing inquiry teaching. While some view it as a process of asking and answering key social studies questions, others view it as the scientific method applied to social studies or the ways real social scientists conduct research (SSCED, 2000). The term Inquiry-teaching technique is employed when dealing with teaching/learning situation that is not being teacher-centred and authoritative in mode of operation. It emphasizes teaching in which the teacher does not dominate the class instructions, but gives some measure of freedom and opportunity for students to learn and find out some facts by themselves. It refers to the whole complex of instructional phenomenon in which the teacher makes use of a variety of methods and activities that encourage students’ active involvement in the generation of their own knowledge (Yakubu, 2001). The idea of inquiry-teaching of Social Studies in this study is based on the views of Freiere(1970), Illich(1970) and Whitehead(1929) about the negative contribution of the prevailing teacher-dominated instructional strategies to relations of domination, oppression and dehumanization of the learners. While Whitehead(1929) views such approaches to schooling and teaching as providing “inert” instead of “active” knowledge, Freiere(1970) says they lead to “banking education”. Consequently, they advocated a radical pedagogy that seeks to identify, understand and critically examine the effects, consequences and power of methods, mode and the environment of teaching and learning in formal educational settings. It is against this framework that the present researchers decided to focus on the inquiry-teaching techniques of Social Studies teachers in Nigerian schools.. Such techniques seek to reduce the authority of the teacher through openness in the educational process, problem-based learning practices, consensus building, learning how to learn, group projects and integration of digital technologies into curriculum implementation.

There appears to be consensus among Social Studies educators including Mkpa (1993) and Niyi (1998) that inquiry instructional technique is relatively more effective than expository approach to the teaching of Social Studies. According to them, apart from students achieving more in cognitive terms from inquiry – oriented Social Studies instruction, this teaching approach contributes significantly to students’ affective and psychomotor learning. Because this teaching technique encourages learning through active participation and experience, its use seems to be consistent with the nature of Social Studies as a totality of man’s experiences in the society. Also, because this teaching technique promotes thinking that is associated with the resolution of problems, it is considered appropriate for teaching Social Studies as a problem – approach discipline. More importantly, because inquiry instructional technique is an attempt to make classroom learning reflect actual events, issues and problems in the society, it becomes a veritable means of helping the students to become more familiar with the needs and problems in their environment (Kadeef, 2000). Its use is also consistent with the provision of the National Policy on Education (FRN, 1981, 1998) with regard to the need to make educational activities centre on the learner for maximum self-development and self-fulfillment, and utilize modern techniques in educational delivery to encourage the practice of self-learning.

In recent times, much research attention has been focused on the teaching of Social Studies in Nigerian secondary schools with a view to ascertaining the adequacy and appropriateness of the teachers’ methods of teaching and indeed the effectiveness of instruction. Investigations into the use of inquiry instructional techniques in the teaching of Social Studies in Nigerian Junior Secondary schools seem to have been focused mainly on teachers’ frequency of the use of this technique and sparingly on the explication of the salient variables influencing its effective use (Mkpa, 1993; Iyamu, 1998 and Otote, 2004). In a sense, no research attention has yet been given to the assessment of the skills and competencies of Social Studies teachers for using inquiry techniques. The use of inquiry instructional technique as an innovative instructional practice can only be effectively implemented if the teachers possess the appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities related to its use in the instructional process. According to Boekaerts (1991), competence is learnt attitudes and aptitudes, manifested as capacities for controlling, actively struggling with and mastering life problems through the use of cognitive and social skills. Thus, as a learnt characteristic, the amount of it possessed by individuals can be measured and fostered through appropriate programmes or interventions.

Competencies for the inquiry–teaching of Social Studies encompass the teachers’ awareness and understanding of some of the issues surrounding inquiry – teaching. These include knowledge of common ways of knowing; skills involved in inquiry and how to teach them; skills of questioning in inquiry teaching and ability to identify topics that are well suited to inquiry. Others are how to develop curiosity and independent thought in students (Brown, 1999; Jarolimek, 1977). They also include ability to elicit students’ questions (Kona (2000). The present concern for Nigerian Social Studies teachers with regard to the acquisition of these qualities is born out of the fear that since most of these teachers have been used to the expository teaching approach and considering the existing inadequacies in teacher education in Nigeria, their awareness, equipment, orientation and willingness to embrace and effectively use the inquiry teaching technique as a mode of teaching are bound to be questionable.

The Problem

Given the high premium placed on Social Studies in the Nigerian Junior Secondary School curriculum, the need to teach it effectively through the inquiry process is indisputable. What is perhaps uncertain is the inquiry-teaching competencies of the teachers who are currently teach the subject in the schools. Consequently, it is necessary to know the amount of competency that these teachers have for the inquiry teaching of the subject. Unfortunately, researchers in Nigeria have not focused well enough on the identification of specific inquiry instructional skills in Social Studies nor the systematic assessment of the teachers’ competencies to use them (Gbenga, 2001). The question is: Do Social Studies teachers in Junior secondary schools in Nigeria have skills related to the use of inquiry-instructional techniques? This study is aimed at finding out the overall inquiry-teaching competences of the teachers and the influence of type of professional qualification on the inquiry-teaching competences of Social Studies teachers in Nigerian Junior secondary schools.


The following hypotheses were formulated to guide the study.

  1. The overall inquiry-teaching competence mean score of Social Studies teachers will not be significantly less than the acceptable level.

  2. There will be no significant difference in the inquiry-teaching competencies of professionally qualified graduate and professionally qualified non-graduate Social Studies teachers in Nigerian Junior secondary schools.

Significance of Study

Social Studies teachers will find this study useful. It will not only help to increase the teachers’ level of awareness and understanding of some of the issues surrounding the use of inquiry instructional technique, its findings will also provide the teachers with a feedback on their inquiry-teaching competencies as a basis for improvement in their instructional practice in order to enhance performance.

An assessment of the inquiry-teaching competencies of Social Studies teachers is essential in order to find out the extent to which the subject is effectively taught in Nigerian schools and indeed, provide insight into the extent to which the objectives of teaching the subject in the schools are being realized. Curriculum planners and evaluators as well as government and educational administrators need empirical data on the overall inquiry-teaching competences of Social Studies teachers in the Junior Secondary Schools to facilitate appropriate curricular policies and programmes for effective teaching and learning. More importantly, results of this study will be useful to Social Studies educators at the University and College of Education levels in terms of the effectiveness of their programmes in developing appropriate inquiry-teaching skills in teacher-trainees.


This study employed the survey research design. It used a random sample of 100 professionally trained Social Studies teachers in the junior secondary schools in South Central Nigeria. The observation method was used for the collection of data. The choice of observation method for the study was informed by its potency for studying social events (Osuala, 1982; Yoloye, 1977). A 20-item four-point rating scale for measuring the inquiry-teaching competencies of social studies was used. The scale ranged from Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor, which were, weighted 4, 3, 2, and 1 respectively. A teacher with the needed inquiry-teaching competence was expected to score up to the middle of the scale, which is 2.5 hypothetically obtained as follows: The exact upper limit (4.5) plus the exact lower limit (0.5) of the scale divided by two. This was taken as the acceptable level in testing the hypotheses. The instrument covered aspects like teachers’ ability to involve students to identify real social problem related to the lesson of the day; ability to involve students to develop hypotheses in the lesson; ability to ask relevant questions; ability to help students plan how to study a question or a problem; ability to promote students’ questions; ability to relate teaching of concepts and ideas to current issues and events in the local, national and international community; ability to guide students to sources of information and ability to coordinate students’ different views. The instrument was pilot-tested and the split-half method was used to obtain reliability coefficient of 0.68. The investigators enlisted the assistance of ten professional colleagues from four universities to carry out the observation of the subjects in the actual classroom setting. Each subject was observed twice by each of two observers to produce four scores. The average of the four scores was used. This exercise lasted for six weeks. In the analysis of data, hypothesis one was tested using the Z test of significant difference between population and sample means while hypothesis two was tested using the Z test of significant difference between two means. The entire tests were carried out at .05 alpha levels.


Below are the results of this investigation.

Table 1
Z-test test of proportion between population and sample means

Number of Subjects

Hypothesized population Mean (µ)

Sample Mean


Sample Standard Deviation (SD)



Critical Table Value







Based on the result of the data analyses in Table 1, hypothesis one is rejected, meaning that the overall inquiry-teaching competences of Social Studies teachers in the Junior secondary schools is significantly less than the acceptable level of 2.5.

Table 2
A Z-test of significant difference between the inquiry teaching competencies of trained graduate and non-graduate teachers



Mean (X)

Std Dev.

Calc. Z

Crit. Z

Trained Graduate Teachers











Trained Non-graduate Teachers







The result of the analysis in Table two indicates that there is significant difference in the inquiry-teaching competences of professionally qualified graduate and non-graduate Social Studies teachers in the schools. Therefore, hypothesis two is rejected.


The result of the analysis of data in Table 1 showed that the social studies teachers in the Junior Secondary Schools are generally incompetent in the inquiry teaching of the subject. This finding corroborates the views of Mkpa (1993) and Popoola (2000) that the major problem of social studies education in Nigeria is the gross lack of appropriate pedagogical skills and competencies by the teachers. According to Whyte (2001), the professionally trained teachers do not seem to demonstrate acceptable level of pedagogical competencies probably due to the low quality of training that they received.

Ajayi (2000) has decried the conditions of teacher education programmes in Nigeria and asserted that they lacked the capacity to produce high quality professional teachers. It is likely that most of the teachers used for this study were not taught the skills and issues related to the inquiry process of teaching while they were in training. Over the years, according to Gbenga (2001), social studies teachers have found convenience in the use of expository teaching methods in the face of over-populated classes in the secondary schools and their lack of desire and morale to be innovative due to poor conditions of service and unattractive school environment.

However, these investigators had expected that the social studies teachers used in this study would obtain a much higher mean score on the inquiry-teaching competency scale than they did. This expectation was based on the fact that these teachers were professionally qualified, with Certificates and Degrees in education. Since this has not been the case, other questions that are fundamental to the teaching of these skills in teacher-education programmes in the country need to be raised.

Although the social studies teachers were found to be generally incompetent in the use of inquiry methods of teaching, they were however found to possess and demonstrate a few specific inquiry-teaching skills. Of the 20 specific competency skills that made up the rating scale used for the observation, their level of competency was found to be significant for only seven. These were skills related to questioning and utilization of students’ contribution in the lesson. This finding is not surprising because questioning and answer method appears to be the major skills that most Nigerian school teachers possess, though some tend to abuse its use (Kissock, 1981). It is perhaps the only instrument of interaction between teachers and students. Although the teachers possessed the skill for promoting students’ questions, it was observed that students’ questions were not born out of curiosity or imagination or critical thinking. Rather, they were mainly responses to teachers’ regular questions as: “Do you understand?” Is it clear? Students would ask such questions as: “What did you say is the meaning of…?” or “How did you arrive at the answer to this question?” or could you repeat what you said last?” These obviously are not the type of questions that imply students’ understanding, reflective thinking, curiosity or active minds

The study revealed that the teachers’ level of competency was not significant for the remaining 13 specific skills in the instrument. These were related to guiding students to identify real social problems related to the lesson; involving students to operationalize concepts as well as relating teaching to contemporary life. Others were related to guiding students to variety of sources of information and use of stimulating instructional materials. These deficiencies, according to Ben-Clays (1999), are reflections of the type and quality of training received by the teachers, for teachers tend to teach the ways they were taught. Hypothesis two in this study sought to test the significant difference between the inquiry-teaching competences of professionally qualified graduate and non-graduate Social Studies teachers. The analysis of data showed that the professionally qualified non-graduate teachers demonstrated more competence than their graduate counterparts. Though this against expectations, it reflects the quality of teacher education at the two levels. The result also corroborates the earlier views of Ajala (2000) and Melford (1999) that teacher education in Nigerian Universities seems to be weak and inadequate in the aspect of principles and practice of education, compared to the College of education. According to them, teaching practice is poorly organized and supervised in the University Faculties of Education and students are not adequately exposed through microteaching. These, however, have been attributed largely to shortage of teaching–learning facilities, poorly motivated lecturers, over-population of students, most of whom are not academically and psychologically fit for teacher education, among others (Ajayi, 2000; Iyamu, 2000). These may have put the graduate teachers at a disadvantage in this study.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Two major conclusions could be reached in this study. These are: that the Social Studies teachers in junior secondary schools in Midwestern Nigeria lack adequate competence for the inquiry-teaching of the subject and those professionally qualified non-graduate teachers are more competent in the inquiry-teaching of Social Studies than the trained graduate teachers. Other conclusions that could be made, by implication though, is that the subject is not effectively taught the way it should be, going by its nature and objectives in Nigerian schools. Based on the foregoing conclusion, the following recommendations were made.

  1. Social Studies teachers in junior secondary schools in Midwestern Nigeria should be exposed to in-service training to update their knowledge of innovative pedagogy.

  2. The Ministry of Education should make journals and other periodicals on the inquiry mode of teaching available to the teachers.

  3. Social Studies teacher education curriculum needs to be reviewed to place more emphasis on skills related to the inquiry teaching of Social Studies.

  4. Social Studies teacher education should give adequate attention to microteaching.

  5. Students’ teaching practice should be more effectively organized and supervised to promote students’ development of relevant teaching skills.

  6. There should be regular workshops for the teachers for their professional growth.

  7. Digital technologies should be introduced to all the schools so as to raise teachers’ awareness of other sources of information for students’ learning and become less authoritative in the instructional process.


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Otote, C.O. (2004). Assessment of the affective evaluation competences of Social Studies teachers in Edo State, Nigeria. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.

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About the Authors

Dr. Ede O.S. Iyamu is a Senior Lecturer in Curriculum and Instruction in the Faculty of Education, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.

email: eosiyamu@yahoo.com  eosiyamu@uniben.edu  eosiyamu@gmail.com 
Tel: +8037441763

Dr. (Mrs.) Celia O.Otote is a lecturer Curriculum and Instruction in the Faculty of Education, Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma, Nigeria.

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