O'Brien Joe E. O'Brien

Associate Professor
Primary office:
337 Joseph R. Pearson Hall

Joe O’Brien, an associate professor in middle/secondary social studies, joined KU’s Curriculum & Teaching department in the spring of 1992. Prior to arriving in Lawrence, he was on the faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he directed the Virginia Institute for Law & Citizenship Studies, Inc. He earned BA degree in history and a license in middle/secondary social studies at the University of Virginia, where he also earned a MSE and an EdD degree.


His primary research interests are in historical thinking and in the use of technology in social studies classrooms, particularly social media. He has published work in journals such as Contemporary Issues in Technology & Teacher Education, Journal of Technology & Teacher Education, The Middle School Journal, and Social Education. He has presented at conferences such as the American Educational Research Association, College & University Faculty Association, Educational Media & Technology, and the National Council on History Education. His service ranges from serving as the chair of the National Council for the Social Studies’ Technology Committee to the advisor for the Kansas University Council on Social Studies.

Academic Degrees

  • Ed.D, Social Studies Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1991
  • M.S.Ed, Social Studies Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1975
  • B.A., History, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1974


Middle and Secondary Social Studies Education


An update on C&T faculty-conducted research: Last May, Dr. Barbara Bradley was awarded a $135,000 grant from the National Endowment for Financial Education to study young children's development of financial and college-bound identities. The project is collaborative with researchers from the School of Social Welfare, the Departments of Sociology and Linguistics, & the School of Education. Her study is part of a larger project providing savings accounts and financial education to kindergartners in the LPS and following the children and their family members for several years to look at outcomes related to financial and college-bound identity formation in 2 experimental groups and one control group.
Students - We need participants for a focus group session this week. Send us a DM if you are interested in providing feedback. Thanks!

Why KU
  • Associate professor Diane Nielsen involved in $120 million project to overhaul how reading is taught to children by 2015
  • School of Education is 10th among public universities for its master’s and doctoral programs
    —U.S. News & World Report
  • 3.35: average GPA of students admitted to teacher education program
  • All teacher education programs accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
  • All teacher education programs accredited by the Kansas State Department of Education
  • Alumni have been named Kansas Teacher of the Year
  • Alumni have received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the Horizon Award