School of Human Development header
School of Human Development


Primary Department
School of Human Development
Academic Staff
Phone number:
01 700
St Patrick's Campus
Room Number
SPC M 310

Academic biography

Dr Maeve O'Brien BEd, MEd (Boston), MA in Ed (UCD), PhD (Equality Studies UCD) is Professor in Sociology and Human Development at the Institute of Education, St Patrick's Campus, DCU. With many years experience as a teacher and Home/School/Liaison Co ordinator in Dublin's Inner City, Maeve moved to full time research and then to teacher education and Human Development. She co ordinated the HD programme on the BA for several years. She teaches at undergraduate level on the BA in Human Development and the BEd programmes. Her post graduate teaching has spanned the MA, BEd and Ed D programmes focusing primarily on inequalities of class and gender in Education and their impact on care and relationships. She is a former Head of the School of Human Development.
Maeve has published on issues pertaining to (in)equalities in education- educational transitions and social class, gender and schooling support work, caring relationality and professional praxis, and the significance and challenges of care and wellbeing in educational contexts today. Her  work on developing a Human Development Conceptual  Framework for the 2nd level wellbeing curriculum (NCCA) with Dr A O Shea is now under some revision and new developments.

Maeve is a former co editor of the international education journal Irish Educational Studies. For the past two years she has lead an ESAI (Educational Studies Association Ireland) SIG across 3rd level institutions with a focus on developing a critical community of praxis in ITE.

Forthcoming:  Maeve has an invited article on wellbeing and contemporary education coming out  in a special issue of the International Journal of Wellbeing.

In 2023 Maeve successfully initiated a Faculty reading group at IoE  with a broad focus on teacher educator identity and wellbeing in the university. The intention is to expand the group in academic year 2023/2024 on the basis of very positive feedback. Faculty emphasized the enjoyable space afforded  to come together and enter into an engaging and non performative dialogue with colleagues from diverse schools and disciplinary fields.

Research interests

My research interests over the decades have  focused on social inequalities of class and gender and their impact on young people's experiences of education. More recently some of my research has shifted to a broader Human Development interdisciplinary approach and to exploring inequalities with a special interest in affective/emotional and relational issues that can compromise or foster well-being. This movement arose from my teaching in human development, past experiences in community building, and the growing theoretical feminist scholarship on the significance of affect and caring.

Some of my ongoing projects are briefly described below:

Caring, Relationality and Well-being are key areas of interest in relation to students, teachers and teacher educators wellbeing. There are a number of strands to this research which are ongoing and have been presented/published in various fora-

getting clear on a conceptual framework for wellbeing in schools a project undertaken with colleague Dr Andrew O Shea (NCCA 2008, 2017, forthcoming: International Journal of Wellbeing Special issue 2023)
Dialogic methods with BEd students to explore professional identity and caring (ECER 2016, ECER 2017, ECER 2018, Barcelona 2022)
Teacher educators' caring and professional identities (2015) (2017) (2022)Gender, care and early education work (international project )
Creativity and Student Teachers' Understandings of its Significance
This is an ongoing project to explore old and new paradigms of creativity and how young teachers understand creativity as an aspect of their professional (ECER 2015, 2016). 

Possibilities for Transformative Education and ITE
With members of School of Human Development we convened and facilitated a symposium to celebrate Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Based on the findings with almost 70 participants we will create a new process for ESAI in 2019 called Possibilities for Hope in the PUCA (O'Brien M, O Shea , Gibson, D, O Farrell, C and King P.)

Project with University of Forida Valencia- Wellbeing and Teacher Education, developing competencies. Possible Erasmus  Autumn 2023

Community of Praxis and Teacher Education;

Book project which emerged from a SIG group focussed on social justice, transformative pedagogies and teacher education over past 3 years. This writing project is with a national group of teacher educators across 4 institutional contexts. We pose the problem-How do we work as a community of praxis to model relationality and contemplative process in outcomes driven contemporary contexts?