Christopher O'Brien

Photo of Christopher O'Brien
Associate Professor & SPED Undergraduate Program Director, Special Education
COED 355


Dr. Christopher O'Brien is Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director for General and Adapted Special Education in the Department of Special Education and Child Development at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dr. O’Brien’s current areas of interest and research include learning strategies that promote the academic achievement of adolescents with high-incidence disabilities in middle and secondary schools, use of multi-tiered systems of support for adolescent literacy development, the use of technology-enhanced reading performance for students with high-incidence disabilities, and technological innovations in the promotion of research-to-practice in special education and adolescent literacy. Most projects in the latter area have related to the use of distance education or online instructional technologies including extensive efforts to use video modeling and instructional exemplars to bridge the research-to-practice gap. Dr. O’Brien recently published Teaching students with special needs: A guide for future educators with chapter co-author John Beattie in an effort to improve teacher preparation for inclusive instruction, particularly for aspiring general education teachers. Other recent research and publications in journals such as Learning Disabilities Research and Practice have centered upon the use of cognitive and metacognitive learning strategies to promote academic achievement in middle/high school classrooms.



  • Graduate Certificate, University of Kentucky, Distance Education (Special Education Teacher Education) 
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Kentucky, Distance Education (Special Education Teacher Education) 2010-2011
  • Ph.D. in Education, University of Central Florida, Exceptional Student Education , 2003-2006
  • Teacher Certification, University of Central Florida, (Urban Teacher Residency Program) and Valencia College, 2001-2002
  • Master of Arts, University of Central Florida, Major: Speech-Language Pathology
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Central Florida, Major: Communicative Disorders, 1994-1998


Content Area Instruction for Students with Special Needs (Graduate online and Undergraduate traditional sections)

Modifying Instruction for Learners with Diverse Needs (Undergraduate K-12 section)

Modifying Instruction for Middle and Secondary Learners with Diverse Needs (Undergraduate Section for Secondary Minors)

Introduction to Special Education (Graduate online section)

Introduction to Students with Special Needs (Undergraduate lecture, hybrid, online, and Prospect for Success sections)

College Teaching in Special Education (Doctoral level course)

Research Interests/Areas of Expertise

  • Teacher education for inclusion and adolescent literacy support
  • Research-to-practice and implementation science in special education and adolescent literacy (e.g., MTSS; Content Literacy Continuum)
  • Prevention of school failure for at-risk learners in high needs communities 
  • Technological innovations in teacher preparation
  • Universal Design for Learning and technological enhancements for learning experiences of at-risk learners.

Awards & Honors

  • 2016, Constructivist Theory, Research, and Practice SIG Outstanding Presentation Award (with Coffey, Byker, Harden, Heafner, Holzberg, Brown, and Williams). American Educational Research Association.
  • 2006, Outstanding Dissertation Award for 2006, Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, $1000
  • 2006, Doctorate Mentorship Award, Presented in recognition of service to the Association of Doctoral Students in Exceptional Education, University of Central Florida

Community Involvement

  • External consultant to Department of Public Instruction-State-wide Adolescent Literacy initiative
  • Board of Directors, Crosland School

Selected Publications

O’Brien, C. & Beattie, J.R. (2016). Teaching students with special needs: A guide for future Educators (2nd Edition). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.

Beuse, K., Merz-Atalik, K., & O´Brien, C. (2016). Sentiments, concerns and attitudes towards inclusive education – A comparison between teacher education students at the University of North Carolina (Charlotte, USA) and the University of Education (Ludwigsburg, Germany). Inklusion Online.

Holzberg, D., & O’Brien, C. (2016, March). Implications of Assistive Technology and Web Accessibility Tools for Improving Outcomes for Students with High-Incidence Disabilities in Postsecondary Education. In Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education, Savannah, GA.

O’Brien, C. (2014). Secondary social studies in the inclusive classroom. In L. Dieker & R. Hines (Eds.), Strategies for teaching content effectively in the inclusive secondary classroom (pp 170-194). New York, NY: Pearson Publishing.

Freeman-Green, S.M., O’Brien, C., Wood, C.L., & Hitt, S.B. (2015). Effects of the SOLVE strategy on the mathematical problem solving skills of secondary students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 30(2), 76-90.

Knight, V., Wood, C. L., Spooner, F., Browder, D. M., & O’Brien, C. (2014). An Exploratory study using science etexts with students with autism spectrum disorder. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 30(2), 86-99.

*Aguinaga, N., & O’Brien, C. (2013, March). An investigation of the effectiveness of teaching and impact on learning by utilizing iPads. Paper included in the Proceedings of the 20th International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education, New Orleans, LA.

O’Brien, C., Aguinaga, N. & Knight, V. (2012). Universal design for learning: Accessing the general curriculum with effective teaching and digital technologies. In G. Campbell-Whatley & J. Lyons (Eds.), Leadership Practices for Special and General Educators. New York, NY: Pearson Publishing.

O’Brien, C., Hartshorne, R., Beattie, J., & Jordan, L. (2011). A comparison of large lecture, online, and hybrid introductions to special education. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 30(4), 19-31.

Ousley, D.M., O’Brien, C., & Campbell-Whatley, G. (2011). Preparing for secondary inclusion: What educators can learn from parents of students with disabilities. Electronic Journal of Inclusive Education. Retrieve from

O’Brien, C. & Wood, C.L. (2011). Video modeling of cooperative discussion group behaviors with students with learning disabilities in a secondary content-area classroom. Journal of Special Education Technology, 26(4), 25-40.

O’Brien, C., Aguinaga, N.J., Hines, R., & Hartshorne, R. (2011). Using contemporary technology tools to improve the effectiveness of teacher educators in special education. Rural Special Education Quarterly. 30(3), 33-40.

King, L., Aguinaga, N., O’Brien, C., Young, W., & Zgonc, K. (2010). Disability in higher education: A position paper. American Annals of the Deaf, 15(3), 386-391.

Dieker, L.A., Lane, H., Allsopp, D.H., O’Brien, C., Wright, T.L., Kyger, M., Lovin, L., & Fenty, N.S. (2009). Evaluating video models of evidence-based instructional practices to enhance teacher learning. Teacher Education and Special Education, 32, 180-196.

O’Brien, C., Aguinaga, N., & Mundorf, J. (2009, March). Preparing the next generation of  teachers to integrate special education technology in inclusive classrooms. Paper included in the Proceedings of the 20th International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (pp. 3189-3194). Charleston, SC.

Aguinaga, N. & O’Brien, C. (2009, March). Universal design for learning and technology integration in higher education: Can we meet the needs of students with disabilities in university classrooms? Paper included in the Proceedings of the 20th International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education, Charleston, SC.

O’Brien, C. & Dieker, L.A. (2008). Effects of video modeling on implementation of literature circles by students with learning disabilities and their peers in inclusive content classrooms. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 2(2), 52-73.

Whitten, E., Dieker, L.A., O’Brien, C., & Summy, S. (2008). Preparing special education teachers for tomorrow. In. C.A. Lassonde, R. Michael, & J. Rivera-Wilson (Eds.), Current issues in teacher education: Comprehensive perspectives (pp. 204-222). Springfield: Charles C. Thomas.

O’Brien, C. (2007). Using collaborative reading groups to accommodate diverse learning and behavior needs in the general education classroom. Beyond Behavior, 16(3), 7-15.

O’Brien, C. (2005). Modifying learning strategies for classroom success. TEACHING  Exceptional Children Plus, 1(3) Article 3. Retrieve from


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