The program has been developed not only to meet the needs of “traditional” younger students, but also the increasing number of mid-career doctoral students. The 59-credit program includes doctoral seminars, research courses, and individual specialty courses and additional credits of self-directed learning. Doctoral seminars in special education are in each of four focus areas – research, teaching, collaboration/diversity, and leadership – which all students take. Additional credits are devoted to “Research and Practice in Special Education” in which students learn the applied skills of professional writing, supervision of student teachers, research implementation, and administration. These courses help the student prepare a portfolio of achievements. Through this unique approach, students not only gain knowledge in the field of special education, but also apply this information as collaborators, teachers, leaders, and researchers. Students complete “research and practice” applications in professional writing, grant writing, college teaching or an internship, and a program evaluation or consultation to schools. These experiences are summarized in a portfolio that becomes the resource for benchmark evaluations (rather than the traditional qualifying or comprehensive exams).
Besides these applied courses and benchmark experiences, the core in-class coursework emphasizes the priority areas of the degree through doctoral seminars in research, teaching, leadership, and collaboration/diversity that all doctoral students take. Students progress through these seminars in a specified sequence so that each can build their knowledge and skills. Additionally, they gain competence in multiple research methodologies including group designs and statistics, qualitative research, and single subject design. To round out the program, students design their own 18 credit specialty. Topical doctoral seminars are offered for this specialty, but students can also use the broader resources of the university. For example, students might tap into doctoral level coursework at the university in administration or public policy.