School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


David Nelson


Instructional Strategies, Middle School, Secondary Education, Social Studies, Vocabulary


Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Gifted Education


Content specific vocabulary instruction at the secondary level is an area that had a minimal research focus. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the beliefs, perceptions, and experiences of 8 middle school social studies teachers in lesson delivery and instruction at Cornerstone Middle School (pseudonym), a middle school located in a major city in the southeastern United States. Data was collected from interviews, classroom observations, and artifacts from participants. The theoretical framework providing a foundation for this study centered on Vygotsky’s (1978) work on social interaction playing an integral role in cognitive development. The research questions that guided the study examined the following: instructional experiences that the participants described as enhancing social studies content vocabulary for their students; experiences teachers perceived as valuable to teaching vocabulary in social studies; and participants’ descriptions of the vocabulary instructional practices used in their social studies classes. The opinions of the participants obtained from the responses from the interviews regarding the significance of using graphic organizers and other instructional strategies aided in identifying common themes derived from the responses. The results of the study contributed to developing best practices for teachers teaching vocabulary within the social studies, a concepts-based content area. These findings suggested that the participants perceived that specific vocabulary instruction and effective instructional strategies must be engaging and implemented on a daily basis.