Doctorate in Special Education

Research from the interdisciplinary field of developmental science, which examines the biopsychosocial mechanisms that underlie typical and atypical development, is changing our understanding of human growth, language, and development. These discoveries have enormous implications for the development of children with and at-risk for disabilities.

The Special Education Doctoral program prepares individuals determined to transform educational and social institutions into inclusive environments through relevant and rigorous research in order to improve the lives of all persons with disabilities. Included in the course sequence are leadership, policy and research courses, as well as foundational courses in brain development from early childhood through adulthood. Students will study structural and functional changes in the brain, examine cognitive processing, and consider the implications of those findings for teaching, learning, and educational policy.

Graduates will leave prepared to have an impact through leadership in academic settings, research communities, policy institutions, and advocacy organizations.


Why a GW Doctorate in Special Education?

    Location: Unique to the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area, our location gives students in the Special Education & Disability Studies Department access to urban or suburban; public, charter, or private schools. This allows students to examine, compare, and contrast schools with widely different student populations, structures, and demographics.

    GSEHD's Center for Applied Developmental Science and Neuroeducation: The program works closely with Graduate School of Education and Human Development's Center for Applied Developmental Science and Neuroeducation to provide research and internship opportunities for students to translate and apply research related to learning for diverse populations. Doctoral students gain research and practical knowledge, learning to integrate, apply, and advance educational and neuroscientific perspectives. The program and its collaboration with the Center for Applied Developmental Science and Neuroeducation is leading the way in research relevant to special educational practice and policy.

    Convenient Schedule: Courses are scheduled once a week in late afternoons and evenings (Monday-Thursday) to accommodate the schedules of working professionals, and for internship experiences.


60 credits, including 15 credits in foundational courses, a minimum 15 credits in research courses including 3 credits in advanced research, 6 credits in internship courses, a minimum 15 credits in dissertation courses, 9 credits in elective courses, and successful completion of a comprehensive examination.

Developmental Science Foundations

SPED 8305Foundations of Neuroscience in Special Education
SPED 8306Advanced Study in Development Science and Variance I: The Early Years
SPED 8310Advanced Study in Development Science and Variance II: The Later Years

Leadership Foundations

SPED 8308Preparation for the Professoriate in Special Education
SPED 8352Disability and Public Policy

Research Tools

EDUC 6116Introduction to Educational Statistics
EDUC 8120Group Comparison Designs and Analyses
EDUC 8122Qualitative Research Methods
Level B Advanced Research Elective; 3 credits from the following:
SPED 8304Research and Trends in Special Education


SPED 8353Post-Master’s Internship in Special Education
SPED 8354Doctoral Internship: Special Education

Interdisciplinary Electives

9 credits in consultation with advisor from recommended list below:
SPED 6299 Federal Education Policy Institute
SPED 6210 Universal Design for Learning and Assessment
SPED 8303 Administration and Supervision of Special Education
SPED 8311 Doctoral Proseminar: Scholarly Writing in Applied Settings
SPED 8100Selected Topics


SPED 8998Doctoral Seminar in Special Education
SPED 8999Dissertation Research (minimum 12 credits needed to complete requirement)

Successful completion of comprehensive exam required
Approved dissertation proposal required

(202) 994-1547
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-9061
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-2780
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-8108
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-5986
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-1534
Associate Professor
(202) 994-1535
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-9860
Career Outlook


Our Special Educators teach, lead, and manage educational programs. They are:

  • Evaluation Coordinators at DC Public Schools
  • Directors of Early Childhood Development & Intervention at Catholic Charities
  • Managers of the National Youth Transition Services Initiative
  • Professional Development Trainers at the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education
  • They are Principals and Special Education Teachers in K-12 classrooms across the country
  • “I started as a DCPS Special Education teacher. My Master’s led to policy work, a Doctorate, and the decision to focus my skills, energy, and commitment on co-founding a middle school with a GSEHD colleague. In a Title I setting, we have designed and are delivering the best,
    comprehensive education model for students. Our project based, small group learning builds problem solving skills, a strong sense of community, and confidence. We draw no lines - all of our students - general and special education alike - learn to advocate for
    themselves “

    Elizabeth Shook-Torres, Ed.D.
    Co-Founder, Washington Global Public Charter School



    Program Entry: Fall, Summer
    Prerequisites:Master's Degree
    Campus:Foggy Bottom

    Application Requirements

    • Online Application
    • Resume
    • Statement of Purpose
    • 2 Letters of Recommendation (must be academic)
    • Transcripts (unofficial)
    • Standardized Test Scores (GRE or MAT)
    • Application Fee

    *Additional application requirements may exist for international applicants

    For more information on any of these requirements, please visit our Admissions page.

    Transformation Begins Here

    Learn more about the Doctorate in Special Education program located on campus (202-994-8411).

    In the News

    GSEHD doctoral student Lauren Hunter Naples (Special Education and Disability Studies) co-authored the article "Using Integrated Arts Programming to Facilitate Social and Emotional Learning in Young Children with Social Cognition Challenges," published March 16 in the journal Early Child Development and Care.

    GSEHD doctoral candidate Carrie Gillispie (Special Education and Disability Studies) was highlighted in The Hatchet's Graduate student modifies high school play for audience members with autism.

    Drs. Beth Tuckwiller and William Dardick and GSEHD doctoral student Elisabeth Kutscher (Special Education and Disability Studies), had their article "A Mixed Methods Investigation of Mindset, Grit, Optimism, and Self-Determination in Adolescents with Learning Disabilities and Differences" accepted in Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal.

    GSEHD doctoral students Lauren Hunter and Heather Walter (Special Education and Disability Studies) had their poster presentation, "Using Mixed Methods Research to Examine Special Education Student and Teacher Wellbeing Through the Dual Factor Model of Mental Health" accepted to the Berkeley Annual Education Research Day. The poster is a joint presentation highlighting major features of each student's dissertation work. Both students are chaired by Dr. Beth Tuckwiller.

    GSEHD doctoral student Robert Eichorn (special education and disability studies) has been named the 2017-2018 Prince William County Public Schools Principal of the Year. Mr. Eichorn is principal of New Directions Alternative Center. According to Assistant Principal Amy Cole in's Robert Eichorn is Principal of the Year; Robert Scott is Teacher of the Year, “He truly always puts staff and students first. It has to be in the student’s best interest; nothing else matters.”