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Doctoral students in SESPECS typically complete two and a half to three years of course work prior to the dissertation.  For Project RELATE participants, most course work will fit into one of three major categories: special education core, research methods, and early literacy specialization.

Special Education Core

The special education core comprises courses designed to develop advanced levels of knowledge and skills related to (a) disability, (b) researched-based innovations in special education, and (c) the role of school organizations in inclusion. These courses are taken by all the doctoral students in special education and are taught by faculty in SESPECS. Five doctoral seminars are offered regularly in the department.

  • In Trends in Special Education, students are introduced to scholarship in special education by exploring current trends and issues and their relationship to practice, policy, and research.
  • Introduction to Field of Inquiry in Special Education assists doctoral students in the acquisition, organization, and interpretation of information about research in special education. The seminar introduces students to the nature of inquiry and the process of generating questions about a broad array of disability-related research topics and to critically analysis of the outcomes of research in special education.
  • Inquiry in Special Education: Analysis of the Literature helps students understand how views of knowledge evolve and influence special education research and practice. Students learn to identify research questions and methodology emanating from the different knowledge paradigms and to critique special education research and practice from these various knowledge paradigms. 
  • The Professional Seminar, which is taken for the first year in the program, orients students to the program and to academia and introduces students to SESPECS faculty and their research.

Research Methods

In addition to the special education research seminars, all project participants will take a minimum of 17 credit hours of foundational research methods courses. These courses will provide background in quantitative, qualitative, and single subject methods of educational research and develop expertise in at least one area of research methodology. Students will also have opportunities to apply their research skills in special education research seminars, as well as in work with faculty as described later in this section.  Students are expected to take at least the introductory level course in both quantitative and qualitative research methods and at least two advanced level courses in one of these domains.

Early Literacy Specialization

Although the study of disabilities and content area pedagogy is included in the SESPECS core coursework, it is not possible for students to develop depth in the complex area of early literacy intervention without specialized study.  All Project RELATE participants will be expected to take four courses specific to literacy:

  • Foundations of Language and Literacy Development
  • Reading Acquisition and Dyslexia
  • Trends in Early Literacy Intervention Research
  • Literacy Intervention and Teacher Development

Participants will also take a doctoral seminar called Issues in Teacher Education: Teacher Learning and Teacher Socialization in High Poverty Schools. Further, all Project RELATE participants will also be expected to (a) propose and complete an Independent Study experience and (b) participate in a semester of Supervised Research with a SESPECS faculty member.  The Independent Study experience affords the doctoral student an opportunity to design his or her own in-depth inquiry related to a specific research interest in literacy.  The student may elect, for example, to conduct a synthesis of research literature on a topic of specific interest or conduct school-based research with teachers or children.  For the Supervised Research experience, students typically elect to conduct a pilot study related to their dissertation or contribute to a faculty member’s ongoing research.

A number of elective courses related to literacy are offered in the College of Education (e.g., Foundations of Literacy; Language Acquisition; Cognitive Processes in Reading; Literacy, Family, & Culture; Issues in Teacher Education; Literacy and Technology; Children’s Literature and the Curriculum; Research in Children’s Literature; Diagnosis and Remediation of Reading Disabilities; Interventions for Language and Learning Disabilities).  Other courses focus on children at risk (e.g., Issues in Teacher Education: Teacher Learning and Teacher Socialization in High Poverty Schools; Issues in Instruction of English Language Learners; and Multicultural Children’s Literature).  Project participants will be expected to select several from among the electives in each of these areas.