Dr Emma Aoife O'Brien

Lecturer in Holocaust and History Education

Emma works across all of the Centre’s professional development programmes from Initial Teacher Education (ITE) through to the Centre's online Masters module ‘The Holocaust in the Curriculum’ and the Beacon School Programme.

Before specialising in Holocaust education, Emma was Head of History in a school in Kent. Now working at the Centre for Holocaust Education, she teaches across all of the Centre’s professional development programmes and also works on the Centre’s Beacon School Programme for teachers leading their schools in Holocaust education; this programme involves teacher residentials in London and Poland.

Prior to joining the Centre in 2010, she worked at Imperial War Museum London (IWM) and her last role was leading the Holocaust (formal) education provision. Working with both the IWM Holocaust Exhibition and Crimes Against Humanity exhibition in London, she developed and led sessions for school groups, ITE groups and members of the Police and Army. Her work at the museum also included editing the 2009 IWM publication Reflections and revising the student audio guides for the Holocaust Exhibition.

Whilst at the Museum, Emma led the IWM Fellowship in Holocaust Education, a Masters-accredited international teacher development programme involving residential seminars in London and Jerusalem and site visits to Lithuania and Poland. During her time at the Museum she also contributed to the UK delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Over the years she has spoken at teacher seminars and conferences in England, The Netherlands, Hungary, Croatia and Greece.

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Dr Emma Aoife O'Brien

Activities and interests

In addition to teaching, Emma writes classroom material for the Centre and professional development sessions for the Beacon School ProgrammeShe has also developed classroom material for the DfE funded project 'Belsen 75'. In the role of Project Manager, Emma led the Centre's work with colleagues at Yad Vashem to develop the Centre's first MOOC, 'Teaching the Holocaust: Innovative approaches to the challenges we face'. The MOOC brings together Holocaust history and classroom research, ensuring the dissemination of the Centre's research to a global audience and offering the Centre's pedagogical approaches to meet classroom challenges raised in the research. By the end of its first run in 2020, 2,105 participants had joined from 88 countries.

Having worked in teacher professional development for over a decade, Emma’s research interests focus on teachers’ experiences of professional development. Her thesis for her Doctor in Education degree (EdD) focussed on the experiences of women teachers pursuing professional learning whilst raising their families. Emma's work draws on life history methods, materialist feminism and Bourdieu's 'theory of practice'.

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Publications and resources