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PhD-ED in Special Education
For education professionals with a desire to be an active scholar in the field of education and make significant contributions to the existing body of knowledge, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education program can take both your research skills and career options to a higher level. The program begins with a review of theoretical frameworks to support your understanding of the role of theory in a PhD degree. Coursework combines this strong base of theoretical knowledge with an individualized focus to conduct research in pre-K-12, post-secondary, and adult learning environments as you contribute new and innovative findings to advance your field of educational specialization.
Why Earn Your Doctorate in Special Education with National University?
The Special Education (SE) specialization is designed for professionals who work with gifted and disabled students in a variety of settings. The program covers a spectrum of related issues, including the development and characteristics of students, learning differences, and instructional strategies that address these special needs. The coursework provides you with the knowledge and contemporary research skills to plan, assess, and deliver instruction to gifted students and those with mental, physical, behavioral, or learning disabilities.
A conferred post-baccalaureate master’s degree or doctoral degree from a regionally or nationally accredited academic institution or an international institution determined to be equivalent through an approved evaluation service.
In addition to the foundational and specialization courses, each PhD student is required to complete a high-quality dissertation through a systematic process and sequential courses assisted by faculty. A PhD dissertation is a scholarly documentation of research that makes an original contribution to the field of educational study. The step-by-step process requires care in choosing a topic, documenting its importance, planning the methodology, and conducting the research. These activities lead smoothly into the writing and oral presentation of your dissertation.
Courses and Sequence
The PhD in Education program requires 60 credits for degree completion. Additional credit hours may be allowed as needed to complete your dissertation research. If granted, additional courses will be added to your degree program in alignment with the SAP and Academic Maximum Time to Completion policies. The estimated time needed to complete this program is 45 months.
A PhD prepares you to make significant contributions to the body of literature within the education field. This course prepares you for understanding what theory is, recognizing theoretical frameworks within existing literature, connecting your research interests to existing theoretical frameworks, and justifying how your research will add to the wealth of current theories in the field.
Specialization Course 1
Your success as a scholarly professional will largely depend upon your communication skills, particularly in your written work. This course supports your development as a scholar who can publish in different types of research-based publications for a variety of audiences. You’ll practice synthesizing multiple sources, formulating arguments, and integrating feedback through iterative drafts of your work. These are key capabilities you’ll need as you submit your research in published manuscripts and presentations.
In this course, you’ll develop effective search and writing strategies to create a scholarly review of literature. The course emphasizes how to: (a) use effective literature search strategies; (b) develop a scholarly synthesis of research literature; (c) organize research literature around identified themes, including a study problem, purpose, and theoretical perspectives; and (d) focus on developing a scholarly exposition that reflects divergent viewpoints and contrasting perspectives. The overarching goal is for you to understand strategies for surveying scholarly literature that avoid bias, focus on educational, practice-based research problems, and address the requirements of a scholarly literature review.
Specialization Course 2
This course introduces you to the research process by exploring its underpinnings, examining its paradigms, and investigating the foundations of qualitative and quantitative methodologies used in educational studies. You’ll identify criteria for the development of quality research studies that are ethical, accurate, comprehensive, cohesive, and aligned. Specific course topics involve the ethics of conducting research; data collection and analysis techniques; and issues of feasibility, trustworthiness, validity, reliability, transferability, and rigor. The goal is to familiarize yourself with the concepts and skills associated with conducting theoretical and applied research.
Specialization Course 3
This course provides the foundational knowledge to become a critical consumer of statistical-based research and a skilled analyst of non-inferential quantitative data. Coursework focuses on understanding multivariate data, non-inferential and inferential statistical concepts, the conventions of quantitative data analysis, and interpretations and critical inferences in statistical results. You’ll use software applications to complete statistical computations and perform quantitative data analysis. The course culminates in a synthesis project to demonstrate your statistical skills and present your results using APA guidelines.
Specialization Course 4
Specialization Course 5
A focus on qualitative research methodology and the designs and methods used to collect and analyze data in educational research. You’ll examine the principles of qualitative research and explore commonly used designs (also referred to as qualitative traditions or genres) with a focus on application and feasibility. Qualitative data collection and analysis methods will be examined for their suitability with regard to the research design selected. Alignment between qualitative designs and research methods, issues of trustworthiness, and the responsibilities of the qualitative researcher will also be explored.
Specialization Course 6
An exploration of quantitative research methodologies and associated designs and methods. You’ll examine paradigmatic perspectives along with the tenets and conventions of quantitative research. Topics for examination include feasibility, validity, reliability, variable operationalization, inferential designs, and analytic software applications used within the quantitative research paradigm. You’ll also look at the components of quantitative research designs that support meaningful studies within the field of education.
Select One of the Following Two Data Analysis Courses:
An exploration of advanced statistical principles and how to apply them to quantitative research. This course provides an overview of advanced statistical concepts used in empirical research, including inferential analyses. You’ll use SPSS software to perform advanced computations as you build independent, scholarly statistical skills. Coursework will emphasize multivariate data; the use, comprehension, and evaluation of sophisticated statistical concepts; and the proper presentation of statistical results.
This course builds on a foundational understanding of qualitative designs and measurements to focus on analyses of the data. Coursework takes you deeper into the skills and techniques necessary to ensure the appropriate analyses of qualitative data, including integrating relevant frameworks, verifying trustworthiness of the findings, and selecting suitable methods for presenting analyses and findings.
The doctoral comprehensive assessment is your opportunity to demonstrate your preparation for entering the dissertation phase as a PhD candidate. You’ll synthesize discipline-specific content with research designs and analysis methods to create a prospectus for a theoretically-based research study that focuses on furthering knowledge in the field of education. Whereas EdD research focuses on addressing a researchable problem with practical applications, PhD research has a focus on contribution to theory and the broader discipline of education. This course is begun only after all your foundation, specialization, and research courses have been completed, and your prospectus will likely become the foundation of your PhD dissertation.
Students in this course will be required to complete chapter one of their dissertation proposal, including the following: a review of literature with substantiating evidence of the problem, the research purpose and questions, the intended methodological design and approach, and the significance of the study. A completed, committee-approved chapter one is required to pass the course. If you don’t receive approval to minimum standards, you’ll be able to take up to three supplementary eight-week courses to finalize and gain approval of chapter one.
In this course, you’ll work on completing chapters one to three of your dissertation proposal and receiving committee approval for the dissertation proposal (DP). Chapter two consists of the literature review, while chapter three covers the research methodology and design, including population, sample, measurement instruments, data collection and analysis, limitations, and ethical considerations. Completed, committee-approved chapters two and three are required to pass the course, as is a final approved dissertation proposal. If you don’t receive approval to minimum standards, you’ll be able to take up to three supplementary eight-week courses to finalize and gain approval of these requirements.
In this course, you’ll prepare, submit, and obtain approval of your Institutional Review Board (IRB) application. You’ll also collect data and submit a final study closure form to the IRB. If you’re still collecting data at the end of the 12-week course, you’ll be able to take up to three supplementary eight-week courses to complete data collection and file your IRB study closure form.
In this dissertation course, you’ll work on completing chapters four, five, and your final dissertation manuscript. Specifically, you’ll complete your data analysis, prepare your study results, and present your findings with an oral defense and a completed manuscript. A completed, committee-approved dissertation manuscript and successful oral defense are required to complete the course and graduate. If you don’t receive approval for either or both, you can take up to three supplementary eight-week courses to finalize and gain approval.
* The elective can be satisfied with any doctoral-level School of Education course. The course listed in the degree plan can be changed upon request. Contact your academic and finance advisor for assistance.
SE-7100 Advanced Topics in Special Education
As the first course in this specialization, the focus here goes beyond individual students and classrooms to a programmatic level that includes entire schools or districts. Another focus includes educational equity, social justice, inclusion, and ethical nuances within the context of special education programs. You’ll also consider teacher retention and the implications of high-and-low-incidence disabilities on special education program planning and implementation. Throughout the course, you’ll cultivate communication skills, particularly around conflict management and collaboration.
SE-7200 Analyzing Data and Monitoring Student Progress
Here you’ll learn how to collect, analyze, interpret, and use individual and aggregated student data to monitor student progress and improve special education programs. You’ll also consider historical perspectives, different techniques, and coding systems for students who use a behavior plan. Throughout the course, you’ll prioritize considerations for equity, fairness, and bias in the collection, analysis, interpretation, and utilization of student data.
SE-7300 Leadership, Law, and Finance in Special Education
The areas of finance, law, and leadership are deep topics in special education. This course touches on each one at a higher level. You’ll explore the various funding models for special education programs and services, including legal considerations, service delivery models, and specific leadership scenarios and reporting obligations. Throughout the course, you’ll consider the role of leadership in cultivating culturally responsive relationships with all stakeholders to ensure equity and fairness.
SE-7400 Implementing Programs for Students with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities
This course focuses on implementation of special education programs at school and district levels for students with intellectual and specific learning disabilities (SLDs). You’ll investigate necessary support, service delivery models, and quality assurance approaches, and synthesize research for evidence-based practices, including strategies for promoting equity, inclusion, and social justice. While some of the concepts here will apply to other categories of disability, this course concentrates specifically on intellectual and specific learning disabilities.
SE-7500 Implementing Programs for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
This course focuses on implementation of special education programs at school and district levels for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. You’ll investigate necessary supports, service delivery models, and quality assurance approaches, and synthesize research for evidence-based practices, including strategies for promoting equity, inclusion, and social justice. While some of the concepts here apply to other categories of disability, this course uses the lens of emotional and behavioral disorders.
SE-7600 Advanced Capstone in Special Education
In this final course of the specialization, you’ll synthesize your work across all courses into a capstone project of your own design. This project will integrate theory and practice within a specific topic of your choosing related to special education programs at the school or district levels. As you prepare your project, you’ll evaluate the impacts of current trends, technologies, and issues of bias, fairness, and social justice. Your project will reflect not only your knowledge and skills in relation to the course learning outcomes, but also your overall preparedness to influence special education programs at the school or district levels.
The PhD in Education program prepares you for making significant contributions to the body of knowledge in the broad field of education as well as a more narrowed area of instructional specialization. Learning outcomes include the ability to:
- Develop deep knowledge of educational systems, theories, and research in an area of expertise
- Interpret theories, research, and ideas for different audiences through multiple methods of communication
- Integrate ethical principles and professional standards for a specific discipline within the field
- Conduct autonomous or collaborative research using high-level analytical skills
- Contribute to the body of knowledge specific to a discipline within the field
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