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Prof Tim O'Brien
  • Honorary Professor
  • IOE - Psychology & Human Development
  • UCL Institute of Education

Honorary Professor in Psychology and Human Development. UCL Institute of Education.

Professor (part-time) at MIC, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Inaugural Fellow of The UCL Centre for Inclusive Education.

Former Senior Lecturer, Westminster College, Oxford. 


Tim was the first person to be awarded The Fulton Fellowship. 

He was awarded The Hines Page Scholarship (UK/USA).

Work in the field includes:

First Team Psychologist/Club Psychologist for three English Premier League Teams. This included over 10 years as First Team Psychologist at Arsenal Football Club. 

Coaching in a range of global businesses. Researching wellbeing in business environments. Applying Grounded Theory for insight into, and development of, higher performance in executive teams. 

Consulting to the UK National Health Service re the National Transformation Plan. 

Tim worked in mainstream and special education...
Mainstream education: Secondary, Comprehensive (11-16) 
Special education: SEBD (age 4-16). Severe Learning Difficulties (primary) 

Tim is a member of the UK Department for Education Expert Advisory Group on Teacher and Leader Wellbeing.

He was a judge in the first debating competition in the UK to take place inside a prison between prisoners. The competition took place at HMP Birmingham. 

He has also been a judge for the national TES School Awards.


Tim's first book Promoting Positive Behaviour was published in 1998. 

His most recent book Inner Story was published in 2016. 

Other book publications include:
O'Brien, T. (2001) Enabling Inclusion: Blue Skies...Dark Clouds? London: The Stationery Office.
O'Brien, T. and Guiney, D. (2001) Differentiation in Teaching and Learning: principles and practice. London: Continuum.
O'Brien, T. and Garner, P. (eds) (2001) Untold Stories: Learning Support Assistants and their work. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.
Benton, P. and O'Brien, T. (eds) (2001) Special Needs and the Beginning Teacher. London: Continuum
O'Brien, T. (2002) 'As Chaotic as a Box of Frogs' in B.Rogers (ed) Leadership and Behaviour Management. London: Paul Chapman
O'Brien, T. and Guiney, D. (2004) 'The Problem is not the Problem: Hard Cases in Modernist Systems' in P. Garner, P. Clough, T. Pardeck and F. Yuen (eds) Handbook of Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. London: Sage
O'Brien, T. (2005) 'Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties' in Lewis, A and Norwich, B. (eds) Special Teaching for Special Children? Pedagogies for Inclusion.  Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Recent publications include:
O'Brien, T. (2018) Reflection on Schools: an evolutionary view. [Warnock Virtual Issue]
O'Brien, T. and Guiney, D. (2019) Staff Wellbeing in Higher Education: a research study. London: Education Support Partnership. 
O'Brien, T. and Roberts, A (2019) A domains-based approach to Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs. Support for Learning 34 (2)
O'Brien, T. (2020) Has inclusion become a barrier to inclusion? (in press)

Peer Reviewer: The British Journal of Music Education; 

MBPSS [British Psychological Society]

Research Summary


Empirical Field:  Psychology. 

Empirical Setting: Psychological constructions - including constructions of reality, constructions of meaning, constructions of emotional and behavioural needs and difficulties. 

Theoretical Framework: Psychology, Phenomenology, Philosophy. Conceptual Pluralism.

Methodological Framework: Qualitative. Grounded Theory. 

Tim's current research focus areas include:

Domains and dimensions of wellbeing in multiple contexts (children and young people, teachers in all settings and staff in Higher Education) 

Provision for children and young people who experience social, emotional and mental health needs [SEMH].

The construction of reality within teams and how this impacts upon performance.

He designed and co-led, with Dr. Dennis Guiney, the Teacher Wellbeing programme for The Chartered College of Teaching. This programme incorporates both psychology and phenomenology, has a practical focus and took place in Government Opportunity Areas across the UK.The focus is on improving teacher wellbeing through action research, exploring the lived experience of teachers and defining and understanding what wellbeing means to teachers in their own schools.  

In 2018 with Dr. Amelia Roberts and Dr Dennis Guiney he led a ten month research and knowledge exchange programme [Supporting Wellbeing, Emotional Resilience and Learning: SWERL] in the area of children's wellbeing, resilience and learning in primary schools with a particular focus on young children who experience SEMH. The schools were mainly from London Boroughs.

In 2019 the SWERL programme is took place with 15 rural schools in one of the UK government Opportunity areas [Suffolk] 

SWERL research is being conducted through the UCL Centre for Inclusive Education and the UCL Department of Psychology and Human Development.

Tim completed the 'Staff Wellbeing in Higher Education' research study for The Education Support Partnership - the only charity in the UK to offer wellbeing and mental health services to education staff and organisations. The research applies an a posteriori inductive analytic methodology and is a signposting study for future large scale research. Outcomes and recommendations were reported in 2019 - see 'publications' (O'Brien and Guiney).


Teaching Summary

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