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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. 

Highlights

Why a GW Doctorate in Special Education?

Location: Unique to the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area, our location gives students in the Special Education and 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.

Curriculum

54 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 8306 Advanced Study in Development Science and Variance I: The Early Years
SPED 8310 Advanced Study in Development Science and Variance II: The Later Years

Leadership Foundations

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

Research Tools

EDUC 6116 Introduction to Educational Statistics
EDUC 8120 Group Comparison Designs and Analyses
EDUC 8122 Qualitative Research Methods
SPED 8304 Research and Trends in Special Education

Level B Advanced Research Elective; 3 credits from the following:

EDUC 8100 Experimental Courses
EDUC 8130 Survey Research Methods
EDUC 8131 Case Study Research Methods
EDUC 8140 Ethnographic Research Methods
EDUC 8142 Phenomenological Research Methods
EDUC 8144 Discourse Analysis
EDUC 8170 Educational Measurement
EDUC 8171 Predictive Designs and Analyses
EDUC 8172 Multivariate Analysis
EDUC 8173 Structural Equation Modeling
EDUC 8174 Hierarchical Linear Modeling
EDUC 8175 Item Response Theory
EDUC 8177 Assessment Engineering

Internship

SPED 8354 Doctoral 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 8100 Selected Topics

Dissertation

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

Successful completion of comprehensive exam required
Approved dissertation proposal required

Faculty

Freund, Maxine Associate Dean for Research and External Relations; Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies
Gresham, Doran Assistant Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies
Ihrig, Karen Assistant Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies
Kester, Joan Assistant Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies
Rice, Elisabeth Associate Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies
Tuckwiller, Beth Associate Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies

Career Outlook

Opportunities

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

Admissions

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)
  • GRE is optional
  • Application Fee

*Additional application requirements may exist for international applicants.
For more information on any of these requirements, please visit our Admissions FAQ page.

Applications are currently being accepted for the Summer and Fall 2022 start terms.  The next priority deadline is November 1.  If you have questions about submitting your application, please contact our Admission Office at gsehdadm@gwu.edu or at 202.994.9283.

Transformation Begins Here

Learn more about the Doctorate in Special Education program located on campus (202-994-9283).