Master's in Special Education for Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Special Education for Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) is an intensive, one-year, full-time master’s program that prepares graduate students to be highly qualified educators of students with learning, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Using a Psychoeducational approach, graduate students in the program gain the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to facilitate effective instruction and improve outcomes for students in this unique and challenging population. The hallmark of the program is its emphasis on clinical preparation, as graduate students have the opportunity to work directly with students with disabilities in a therapeutic school during the day, as well as to complete graduate level courses in the evenings. The program offers graduate students the opportunity to apply their coursework directly to practice in the classroom while being mentored by school-based cooperating teachers and university faculty and staff. Using a Professional Development School model (see below for description) university faculty and staff work closely with the schools to provide a supportive and enriching environment to gain the skills necessary to teach in this high need field of education.

This program is focused on preparing teachers of students with EBD in grades K-8. If you are interested in working with students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities in grades 9-12, please explore our Secondary Special Education and Transition Services program.

Features of the Programs

  • One-year program (summer to summer) leading to a Master's Degree in Education and Human Development, as well as Teacher Licensure in Special Education
  • Concentration on working with and teaching students with emotional and behavioral disabilities and learning disabilities
  • "Hands-on," full school year intern teaching experience
  • Supportive mentorship and supervision from University faculty and staff, as well as school-based cooperating teachers
  • Small classroom environment, opportunities for individualization
  • Evening graduate classes

Professional Development School Model

A Professional Development School (PDS) model blends the theory and practice of learning to teach so that concepts learned in a university classroom can be applied the next day to work with students with EBD. In the PDS model, graduate students learn about best practice and research-based interventions through their coursework, while being able to apply them concurrently in their full-time, clinical internship in a therapeutic school setting. Currently, our program partners with both public and non-public schools throughout the DC, VA, and MD area. Graduate students are not only matched with a partnership school for internships, but also with a Cooperating Teacher, who serves as a mentor and support in the school building. University faculty and staff provide bi-weekly supervision and individualized feedback on teaching progress, as well as weekly seminars that provide a forum for professional growth and peer-driven emotional support.


Why a GW Master's in Special Education for Children with Emotional & Behavioral Disabilities?

  • Nationally Recognized: The program is nationally recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children, is accredited by Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and has been training exemplary special educators for twenty years.
  • Social Justice in Action: Graduates learn more than classroom methods and techniques. They are trained as advocates to change the classroom experience for all students.
  • Theory to Practice to Reflection Pipeline: Graduates are able to directly apply the theory they learn in coursework to their day-to-day practice with students and then self-reflect on their personal and professional growth in weekly seminars and journals with supervisors.
  • Exceptional Employment and Retention Rates: Program graduates are highly sought after for post-program employment, as well as demonstrate teacher-retention rates many times higher than the national average.

Sample Program Plan (subject to change)

First Summer Semester

  • CPED 6236 Analysis of Teaching
  • SPED 6201 Introduction to Special Education
  • SPED 6260 Developmental Assessment in Special Education
  • CPED 6411 Elementary School Curriculum and Methods: Mathematics

Fall Semester

  • SPED 6288 Characteristics of Individuals with Learning, Emotional, and Intellectual Disabilities
  • SPED 6290 Affective Development and Behavior Management in Special Education
  • CPED 6224 Diagnostic Teaching of Reading: K–6
  • SPED 6990 Internship in Teaching Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities: Assistant Teacher

Spring Semester

  • SPED 6238 Issues in Educating Individuals with Learning, Emotional, and Intellectual Disabilities
  • SPED 6100 Accessing the General Education Curriculum for Special Education
  • CPED 6411 Elementary School Curriculum and Methods: Language Arts
  • SPED 6991 Internship in Teaching Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities: Co-Teacher

Second Summer Semester

  • EDUC 6114 Introduction to Quantitative Research

Graduation Requirements

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development comprehensive exam
  • Completion of the relevant teacher licensure assessments (i.e., PRAXIS) required by the District of Columbia Educator Licensure Services Office
Assistant Professor
(202) 994-5986
Associate Professor
(202) 994-1535
Career Outlook


Our graduates are Special Educators in both public and non-publics schools throughout the nation. In addition to classroom teaching, our graduates are also administrators of special education programs, advocates in the policy arena, researchers and faculty in higher education, and educational consultants.

"The professors taught me more than instructional methods and behavior management strategies; they taught me how to be self-reflective and to always ask ‘whose needs are being met?’ I left this program not only a better teacher, but also a better person."

Brian Ernest, program graduate

In the News

Dr. Joan Kester attended the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day Autism Advantage Luncheon with current GSEHD student Carol Salter (master's, special education and disability studies) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Ms. Salter is Assistant Vice President of Workforce Solutions, Easter Seals, Inc.