Ph.D. in Education - Special Ed


The Ph.D. in Special Education program provides students a unique opportunity to develop skills needed for success as teacher educators, researchers, and scholars in the field of education.

Doctoral study in special education at the UVA Curry School of Education and Human Development allows students to focus on one of two areas—high-incidence disabilities or gifted education. In addition to the usual coursework, doctoral students work closely with faculty members on research projects, college teaching, support of professional organizations, and other activities that will be important parts of their subsequent professional careers. Graduates of the doctoral program in special education at U.Va. have become eminent scholars and leaders of professional organizations.

 

Goals of the Ph.D. Program

Students who pursue advanced studies in Special Education generally have one of two settings in mind for employment, one a university or college setting, the other a research-and-development center, agency, or organization. The Ph.D. program includes coursework, a research apprenticeship, and practical experiences to prepare graduates to produce original research that contributes to the knowledge base in special education and to teacher education in general; it also prepares graduates to provide effective leadership in this area. For those who plan to work in colleges and universities, the Ph.D. program additionally prepares graduates to educate special education professionals with evidence-based practice as the base.

“Curry strongly contributed to a unique set of competencies with which I've shared with about 20 doctoral students who will help prepare over 10,000 teachers. Multiply that impact by the number of Curry's special ed doc students over 35 years and you will have an idea of the value of this program.”

– Michael Gerber, Professor, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, UC Santa Barbara, Special Education

Program Life

This is a research-based, full-time program that is offered in Charlottesville only. Doctoral study requires rigorous, intensive study in close work with faculty members and fellow students in Charlottesville. Students engage in regular face-to-face, often impromptu meetings and discuss current readings, research, issues, and other ideas.

Program Details


  • Prerequisites and Admission Requirements

    Beyond the requirements for admission to any Curry School Ph.D. program—unofficial GREs, TOEFLs (if relevant, official scores should be sent to the University of Virginia; the institutional code is 5820), copies of unofficial transcripts (official transcripts are required after acceptance of admission), two recommendations solicited through the online application—entrance to the special education Ph.D. program requires a relevant master’s degree (e.g., special education or closely aligned field). Additionally, applicants must also have a minimum of three years experience teaching students with disabilities. Applicants must provide both a goals statement and a writing sample when completing the online application. The goal statement should include (a) why you want to pursue a doctoral degree in the selected area (e.g., high-incidence disabilities), (b) with whom you want to study and why, and (c) your goals for work after graduation. The writing sample requirement may be met by submitting one of the following:

    •  a paper written for a graduate level course completed within the past 5 years;
    •  a published journal article;
    •  a newsletter article published by a professional organization;
    •  a grant proposal submitted for funding (must have been written independently); or
    •  a 3-5 page topical essay on a current issue in special education of interest to you.

    Applicants may submit unofficial test scores and transcripts with their application. However, official test scores (taken with 5 years) and official transcripts showing degree conferral are required prior to matriculation.

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Application Due Date

    December 1 of each calendar year

    Applicants are responsible for ensuring that all required materials are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be read and may be cancelled if left incomplete. Materials should be tracked using the checklist in the application.

  • Degree Requirements

    General Coursework Guidelines

    The Ph.D. program requires a minimum of 72 credits, at least 54 of which must be coursework. This coursework requirement includes concentration area courses, research methodology courses, and up to 3 credits of research apprenticeship per semester, but does not include internship and dissertation credits. At least 36 course and apprenticeship credits must be completed after admission to the program. Students may apply up to 12 credits of dissertation work towards the total of 72.

    Research Methodology Coursework

    Ph.D. students will take Research Foundations, an introductory course in educational research common to all Curry doctoral students. Additionally, students are required to take a minimum of three courses in quantitative methods (generally Stats I, II, and III) and two courses in qualitative research methodology (generally Qual I and Qual II). Advisors may suggest additional research methodology courses, depending on the focus of a student’s individual program and research, e.g., single subject research. Students with advanced knowledge in methodology may petition to enroll in courses appropriate to their knowledge.

    Research Apprenticeship

    Ph.D. students will participate in a research apprenticeship with their research mentors. Mentors will be assigned based on the student’s research interests. This apprenticeship will occupy approximately 10 hours of each student’s week during the first and second years of study and may increase during the third and fourth years, depending on the student’s specific duties. During this apprenticeship, the student will assist with the mentor’s research and scholarship, which may include data collection, data analysis, library research, presentations, writing for publication, and other related activities.

    Education of Teachers Internships-Apprenticeships

    Ph.D. students are expected to complete experiences that enable them to understand the workings of university level teacher preparation. These experiences may be met through apprenticeship assignments or internships for credit, and consist of, but are not limited to, the following: supervising student teachers, serving as a graduate teaching assistant, serving as the instructor for a preservice or master’s level course, assisting the Director of Teacher Education, working with the novice teachers network, designing and evaluating curricula for P-12 programs, working with clinical instructors and cooperating teachers, supervising early field experiences, serving as a connection between the university and local schools in developing early field experiences, and so forth. Internships will be determined in consultation with faculty advisors.

    Assessment

    Assessment of student progress through the Ph.D. program will be multifaceted, and it will include components conducted by faculty members and by students themselves. In general, assessment of progress in the special education doctoral program corresponds with the guidelines described in Ph.D. Doctoral Student Assessments by the Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education Department (2010).

    Student Annual Report

    Annually, each Ph.D. student will complete a report describing his or her growth and accomplishments.

    Preliminary Exam

    In the first year of study, all Ph.D. students complete a preliminary exam, which is designed to determine the likelihood of the student’s continued success in Ph.D. studies and to help guide plans for future coursework. This exam consists of two parts. The first is a paper on a topic of significance in the field; the student submits the paper in advance to the members of the committee and then responds to questions about it during a face-to-face meeting with the committee. The second is a critique of a research article; students receive an article one week prior to the exam, prepare and present a review of it, and then answer questions about it and their review of it during the face-to-face meeting with the committee.

    Pre-dissertation Research Manuscript

    All Ph.D. students, prior to their third year of study, will complete a pre-dissertation research project that results in a manuscript submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. There is no requirement that the paper be accepted for publication, but students are strongly encouraged to revise manuscripts if resubmission is likely to result in publication. Research mentors will work with students to shape these papers toward eventual publication; co-authored papers are acceptable, but the student should take primary responsibility for completing the work.

    Comprehensive Examination

    All students will complete a written comprehensive examination to demonstrate understanding of the knowledge base and methodology in a concentration area of special education and demonstrate readiness to undertake doctoral dissertation research. The examination will be graded independently by at least two faculty members. With approval of the special education graduate program, a research manuscript accepted for publication may be used to satisfy part of the qualifying examination.

    Dissertation

    Ph.D. students will complete a dissertation proposal and a dissertation following either the traditional model or the three-paper option described in the Curry Dissertation Manual.

  • Funding Opportunities

    A typical funding package includes (a) a minimum of $18,000 for 9 months in a combination of wages and stipends, (b) tuition and all mandatory fees, and (c) funds to cover student health insurance costs.  However, all Ph.D. applicants are automatically considered for the Dean's Fellowship Program, which provides top Ph.D. students with four full years of tuition and fees, health insurance, and $32,000 per year of study.  In some cases, individual faculty members can offer financial packages of different amounts based on grant funding.  Please contact Dr. Michael Kennedy (mjk3p@virginia.edu), Program Coordinator, or an individual faculty member for more information.

  • Typical Length of Study

    Students typically complete the program in four years of full-time study.

    Semester of Entry:

    Fall

    Full or Part Time:

    Full-time.

  • Course Overview

    The sample program described in the following table is not prescriptive. It is only an example. Students should develop programs in collaboration with their advisors and program planning committees so that their programs meet their unique educational needs. 

    Year 1: Fall Year 1: Fall Credits and Assessment
    EDIS 8821: Pro-seminar for Curriculum, Instruction & Special Education (1 credit) EDIS 8090: Integrative Literature Reviews 25; Preliminary Exam second semester
    EDIS 8850: Seminar in Special Education EDLF 8300: Experimental Design--Stats II  
    EDLF 7300: Foundations of Ed Research EDLF 7404: Qualitative Analysis  
    EDLF: 7310: Educational Research--Stats I Elective  
    EDIS 7852: Reading Research    
    Apprenticeship Assignment Apprenticeship Assignment  
    Year 2: Fall Year 2: Spring Credits and Assessment
    EDIS 8850: Seminar in Special Education EDIS 8090: Current Research on Teaching & Teacher Education 24; Pre-dissertation manuscript
    EDLF 7330: Single-Subject Research or EDLF 8440: Advanced Methods--Qualitative Analysis EDIS 8800: Principles of Curriculum  
    EDLF 8310: Stats III - Correlation and Regression EDIS 8822: Seminar - Grant Writing (IES focus)  
    EDIS 8090: Teacher Education and Diverse Populations EDLF 8360: Seminar in Advanced Statistics  
    Apprenticeship Assignment Apprenticeship Assignment  
    Year 3: Fall Year 3: Spring Credits and Assessment
    EDLF 8430: Evaluation of Teaching EDIS 8090: [Other available topic seminar, as arranged with advisor] 24; Comprehensive Exams
    EDLF 7330: Single-Subject Research or EDLF 5500: K-12 Education Policy Elective EDIS 9993 - Independent Study  
    Interdisciplinary Doctoral Seminar (decide with advisor) Interdisciplinary Doctoral Seminar (decide with advisor)  
    EDLF 8340: Measurement Theory I EDLF 8xxx: [Quant course as available and as arranged with advisor]  
    Apprenticeship Assignment Apprenticeship Assignment  
    Year 4: Fall Year 4: Fall Credits and Assessment
    EDIS 9999: Dissertation Hours Only EDIS 9999: Dissertation Hours Only 12; Dissertation
    Apprenticeship Assignment Apprenticeship Assignment  
    Note: Apprenticeship Assignment is 20 clock hours per week; minimum of 10 hours must be spent on research.  
  • Sample Jobs After Graduation

    Students who pursue advanced studies in special education generally have one of two settings in mind for employment, one a university or college setting, the other a research-and-development center, agency, or organization. The Ph.D. program includes coursework, a research apprenticeship, and practical experiences to prepare graduates to produce original research that contributes to the knowledge base in special education and to teacher education in general; it also prepares graduates to provide effective leadership in this area. For those who plan to work in colleges and universities, the Ph.D. program additionally prepares graduates to educate special education professionals with evidence-based practice as the base.

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at http://records.ureg.virginia.edu/index.php.