Dr. Kevin O'Neill

Professor, Faculty of Education

Research Interests

My research is quite eclectic. Over my 30-year career, I have carried out research both in high schools and at the university, employing qualitative, quantitative, mixed-methods and design-based methods as appropriate to the questions my collaborators and I were asking in each project.

For the first decade of my career, I worked with teachers in Chicago, Toronto and Vancouver to organize online mentoring (aka “telementoring” or “e-mentoring”) relationships between high school students and a variety of adult volunteers, in order to support teachers’ pursuit of ambitious inquiry pedagogy in science and history.

Later, my collaborators and I studied how students from Grade 8 to graduate study understand why historians tell different stories about the same people and events in the past. We developed an original, practical instrument for classroom assessment called the Historical Account Differences (HAD) questionnaire.

More recently, I have been working with a team to study how undergraduate students choose which courses they want to take in-person and which ones they want to take fully online, when they have a realistic choice.

I am deeply interested in the analogies that researchers, policy makers and members of the general public use to understand educational practice and educational research. I have produced a series of papers examining what researchers and teachers can learn through examining work in other fields of practice, such as aeronautics, architecture, medicine and theatre.

Research Highlights

Beyond Lip­service: Investigating Teacher Educators’ Pursuit of Inclusive Practice during COVID­19 (SSHRC, Sept. 2021-present)

Study of the impact of pandemic emergency teaching on teacher educators’ awareness of student needs generally, the impact of this awareness on their instructional design choices, and the effect of those choices on their students’ understanding of inclusive teaching practice. Data collection includes instructor questionnaires, student questionnaires and interviews with selected instructors to craft a multiple-case analysis of exemplary practice. (Principle Investigator)

Understanding Students’ Choice of Course Modality in Changing Times (SSHRC Small, March 2021-present)

Questionnaire study of the factors that affect student choices between enrolling in online or in person courses. Builds upon work conducted prior to COVID-19 to both explore the impact of pandemic remote teaching on these choices as well as incorporate new items to capture pedagogical preferences associated with online or in person teaching and logistical constraints on course choice. (Principle Investigator)

Compassionate Canada?

In this design-based research project, my team worked with local Social Studies teachers to design, implement and evaluate a curriculum unit intended to prompt students to think deeply about why historical questions are so challenging to answer, and why different stories exist about the same past events, while covering the mandated BC curriculum. Using an online archive of historical source materials covering several events in the recent and more distant past, students prepared for a classroom debate on the question, “To what extent, if any, did Canada become a more compassionate country over the course of the 20th century?”

The Historical Account Differences Survey

Students enter a history or social studies classroom with ideas about the kind of knowledge taught there. This includes ideas about historical narratives, where they come from, and what makes them good or useful. The Historical Account Differences (HAD) survey site gives instructors a quick way to assess the ideas their own students have about historical accounts, especially why they may differ. This knowledge should enable instructors to plan lessons that engage with and improve students' ideas about historical accounts.