Photo of Thomas O'Brien

Thomas O'Brien

Professor, Graduate School of Education

Office: AB- 126B
Phone: 607-777-4877
Fax: 607-777-3587
E-mail: tobrien@binghamton.edu

Educational Background

  • PhD, Curriculum and instruction/Science education, University of Maryland, College Park
  • MA, Curriculum and instruction/Chemical education, University of Maryland, College Park
  • BA, Chemistry and secondary education, Thomas More College

Teaching Profession
Courses regularly taught

  • SEC 593D: Philosophical and Theoretical Foundations in the Pedagogy of Science
  • SEC 594D: Curriculum and Teaching in Science
  • SEC 590D/591D: Practica in Teaching Science
  • EDUC 673: Leadership in Educational Settings
  • ELED 507: Elementary Science Content & Methods
  • EDUC 603: Theories of Learning & Instructional Design

Current Research Interests

  • Minds-on constructivist approaches to science teaching and teacher education (e.g., use of inquiry-based, discrepant event activities and analogies to challenge misconceptions)
  • Science teacher leadership and professional development networks
  • Science-society technology and integrated, real-world relevant STEM curriculum development
  • Web as a resource for science teachers: see the large collection of websites and annotated bibliographies at: http://csmte.binghamton.edu/links.html

Selected Publications

  • Baxter, J. & O'Brien, T. (2014). Terence the space tomato. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. This children's tradebook combines a fictional story, illustrations (by elementary student, Mercedes Buckingham) and national standards-based activities for teachers and parents to use with children.
  • Brain-Powered Science: Teaching and Learning with Discrepant Events (2010), More BPS (2011) and Even More BPS… (2011): This NSTA Press series features a new dual-purpose instructional strategy for use in preservice science methods courses, inservice science professional development programs and by individual science teachers (grades 5-12). See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-P_h8Fyf_-c   for a 7-minute interview where the author answers questions about the focus of the book series by demonstrating a discrepant event.

                  Each activity in the three books (used singly or combined in any order) serves both as a:

(1) model, inquiry-oriented, discrepant event activity for teaching science to grades 5-12 students (in a way that is Safe, Simple, Economical, Enjoyable, Effective & Relevant/S2EE2R criteria) and (2) visual participatory analogy for science teacher education that teaches teachers principles of research-informed, Curriculum-Instruction-Assessment, best practices.

Like all NSTA Press books, these books are modestly priced (in traditional paper form and as e-books) and allow anyone to download for free the Introduction + Table of Content + a Sample activity. Go to: http://www.nsta.org/publications/press/brainpowered.aspx (click on Read More for the individual books & then scroll down to Read Inside to download the free materials). The three free activities for the respective books in the BPS series are:

                 Activity 16. Air Mass Matters: Creating a Need-to-Know [activities that make air “sensible”]

                 Activity 15. Measurements & Molecules Matters: Less is More & Curriculum “Survival of the Fittest” [compelling macroscopic evidence for the molecular view of matter]

                 Activity 10. Osmosis and “Naked” Eggs: The Environment Matters [a 5E Teaching Cycle unit]

Additionally, the hundreds of URLs cited in the Internet Connections feature are available free-of-charge at the NSTA Press Extras page: http://www.nsta.org/publications/press/extras/.

  • Banko, W., Grant, M.L., Jabot, M.E., McCormack, A.J., & O’Brien, T. (eds.). (2013). Science for the Next Generation: Preparing for the New Standards. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press in collaboration with the Science Teachers Association of New York State. This book is designed to help K-5 science teachers use research-informed, best practice, Curriculum-Instruction-Assessment approaches that align with the just released Next Generation Science Standards. Go to: http://www.nsta.org/store/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9781936959266 for a FREE download of the Table of Contents, Foreword (by Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan), Book Overview & Chapter 4/5E(z) Guidelines for Designing Research-Informed Science Lesson Sequence (both written by Dr. O’Brien), and Index. Live links to all the Internet resources cited can be found at: http://www.nsta.org/publications/press/extras/nextgen.aspx
  • Hubenthal, M., O’Brien, T.,  & Taber, J. (September 2011). Posters that foster
    cognition in the classroom: multimedia theory applied to educational posters, Educational Media International, 48:3, 193-207. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09523987.2011.607322
  • Busch, J.R., O’Brien, T.P., & Spangler, W.D. (2005). Increasing the quantity and quality of school leadership candidates through formation experiences. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 11(3).
  • Stamp, N. & O’Brien, T. (January 2005). GK-12 Partnership: A Model to Advance Change in Science Education. Bioscience, 55(1), 70-77.
  • Green, D.W. & O’Brien, T. The Internet's Impact on Teacher Practice and Classroom Culture. T.H.E. Journal, V.29, No.11 (June 2002), 44-51. [available at http://thejournal.com/Articles/2002/06/01/The-Internets-Impact-on-Teacher-Practice-and-Classroom-Culture.aspx].
  • O’Brien, T. & Seager, D. (Nov. 2000). 5 E(z) steps to teaching earth-moon scaling: An interdisciplinary mathematics/science/technology mini-unit. SchoolScience & Mathematics, 100(7), 390-395.
  • O’Brien, T. (Oct. 2000). A toilet paper timeline of evolution: A 5 E cycle on the concept of scale. American Biology Teacher, 62 (8), 578-582.
  • O'Brien, T.& Cheeks, D. (1996). NYSTEP Teacher Guide. Albany, NY: New York State Education Department. See Research Highlights to read more about this guide.
  • O'Brien, T. (1992). Science inservice workshops that work for elementary teachers. School Science and Mathematics, 92, 422-426.
  • O'Brien, T. (1991). The science and art of demonstrations. Journal of Chemical Education, 68, 933-936.
  • American Chemical Society, (1988). Chemistry in the Community (ChemCom). Dr. O'Brien was a contributing author for student text and Editor/Author for Teacher's Guide.

Co-Principal Investigator on numerous grants:

  • Big Ideas in Science Institute (BISI), funded by NYSED
  • Graduate Teaching Fellows in Elementary School Education, funded by NSF GK12
  • Community Collaboration to Enhance Investigative Biology, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
  • Community of Faculty and Student Scholars in Biology, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Improving Access, Success and Teaching Performance in Molecular Biology, funded by the National Science Foundation
  • Statewide Training for Educators in Physical Sciences (STEPS), funded by the National Science Foundation
  • STEP-UP: Southern Tier Educators Program for Understanding Physics, funded by the New York State Education Department

Selected Recognitions

  • University and Chancellor's Awards for Excellence in Teaching, 1999
  • New York State Association of Teacher Educator's (NYSATE) R. Neal Appleby Award for New York State's "Outstanding Teacher Educator," 1999

Last Updated: 9/12/14