O'Brien Joe E. O'Brien

School of Education - Curriculum & Teaching
Associate Professor
Secondary History/Government Education Program Coordinator
Primary office:
Joseph R. Pearson Hall, 337
University of Kansas
1122 West Campus Rd
Lawrence, KS 66045-3101
Second office:


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.

Joe O'Brien specializes in middle and secondary social studies education.

Teaching Interests

  • Inquiry learning
  • Student centered
  • Public policy issues


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.

Research Interests

  • Historical thinking
  • Instructional technology
  • Social media
  • Online discussions

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
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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
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