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Disability Disciplines Doctoral Programs

Program Purpose

The Disability Disciplines Doctoral Program is intended to broaden graduates’ ability to impact education and services for people with disabilities. Students learn to:

  • Prepare new teachers and clinicians to effectively implement research-based practices
  • Develop and evaluate new programs
  • Conduct meaningful research on important topics.

Upon graduation students will have the skills necessary to become university professors and leaders in disability-related fields.

Program Structure

The Disability Disciplines Doctoral Program is an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program that brings together faculty and students across disciplinary and departmental lines to explore the interrelated aspects of disabilities. Specializations include:

  • special education,
  • speech and language pathology,
  • rehabilitation counseling,
  • applied behavior analysis,
  • disability studies,
  • pathokinesiology, and
  • audiology.

All specializations balance a common core of interdisciplinary coursework and applied activities with a strong disciplinary focus.

Learning Objectives

The learning objectives that underlie the Disabilities Disciplines Doctoral Program are based on an analysis of the critical competencies necessary to be a successful university faculty member.  They are organized in three areas – research, personnel preparation, and disciplinary expertise.  The objectives are stated broadly so they apply to the diverse disciplines that participate in the program; however, they are interpreted within the specific disciplinary context of each specialization.

Research Area.  Students will…
  1. identify socially and scientifically important research topics in their discipline,
  2. systematically review literature (including developing EBP reviews and practice guidelines),
  3. conduct high-quality research
  4. disseminate research results to technical audiences, and
  5. disseminate research results, syntheses of bodies of research, and user-friendly practice recommendations to practitioners (e.g., teachers, clinicians, administrators).
Personnel Preparation.  Students will…
  1. plan, teach, and evaluate an undergraduate or masters level personnel preparation course in their discipline.
  2. plan, implement, and evaluate supervision of pre-professional students in their discipline.
Disciplinary Expertise.  Students will…
  1. demonstrate doctoral level expertise in their discipline by producing research-oriented and personnel preparation-oriented professional products that reflect up-to-date knowledge of research, theory, and in their discipline.
  2. demonstrate disciplinary expertise by participating as a key team member in preparation of a substantial (e.g., federal) grant in their discipline.  This grant may involve research, personnel preparation, or service delivery. 
Post-Graduation Placement.  Students will...
  1. obtain employment as faculty members in IHEs or other doctoral-level positions. 
  2. find their overall experience in the program to be one of support, growth, and preparation to attain their professional goals.

Assessment Plan

Student knowledge, skills, and dispositions are measured on numerous levels in the program (e.g., individual objectives within courses, by course grades, by performance on authentic integrative products, and by the quality of dissertations), overall programmatic decisions depend most heavily on quality of products and dissertations because these include all critical objectives and allow for evaluation in appropriately authentic and complex contexts.

The following table shows the relationship between critical objectives and products (which serve to both build competence and for provide evaluation.)

Each item in the right column is linked to the course syllabus (or other information) which includes specific evaluation criteria for the product.

  Objectives Assessment
Research
Students will:
  • identify socially and scientifically important research topics in their discipline,
  • systematically review literature (including developing EBP reviews and practice guidelines),
  • conduct high-quality research
  • disseminate research results to technical audiences, and
  • disseminate research results, syntheses of bodies of research, and user-friendly practice recommendations to practitioners (e.g., teachers, clinicians, administrators).
Successful completion of:
Discipline
Specific
Competencies
Students will:
  • demonstrate doctoral level expertise in their discipline by producing research-oriented and personnel preparation-oriented professional products that reflect up-to-date knowledge of research, theory, and in their discipline.
  • demonstrate disciplinary expertise by participating as a key team member in preparation of a substantial (e.g., federal) grant in their discipline.  This grant may involve research, personnel preparation, or service delivery.
Successful completion of:
Personnel
Preparation
Students will:
  • plan, teach, and evaluate an undergraduate or masters level personnel preparation course in their discipline.
  • plan, implement, and evaluate supervision of pre-professional students in their discipline.
Successful completion of:
  • SPED 7340  College Teaching Internship
  • SPED 7330  Supervision Internship
  • SPED 7070  Grant Writing
Summary
Objectives
& Measures
Students will:
  • obtain employment as faculty members in IHEs or other doctoral-level positions.
  • rate their experience in the doctoral program as a positive and enriching experience that enables them to attain their professional goals.
Successful completion of:
  • Post-graduation employment (IHE Faculty, doctoral level clinical, or other).
  • Post-graduate satisfaction surveys

Outcomes data

Student Outcome Data

Outcomes from the key assessment tasks in the doctoral program for a relevant group of students are shown below.  The sample is comprehensive – all 32 students who entered the doctoral program between fall of 2007 and summer of 2012.  This group is relevant because they have had sufficient time in the program to complete all requirements.  The current status of 32 admitted students is as follows:

  • 25 graduates
  • 3 currently enrolled students with varying numbers of key assessment tasks completed
  • 3 students dismissed from program after failing preliminary exams
  • 1 student dismissed from program prior to preliminary exams

Prelim Outcomes Chart

We interpret the results on the current status of the sample of 32 students as an indication that the program generally provides sufficient support for the large majority of enrollees to successfully graduate.  The fact that 12% of enrollees were dismissed from the program due to lack of academic success suggests that we should continue to refine our admission decision-making, but that we are generally selecting effectively.  The data below speak to the success and productivity of those who complete the program.

Results on key assessment tasks are shown below.

Results of Key Assessment Tasks

Results on achievement of graduates at the time of graduation and beyond are based on a comprehensive sample of the most recent 41 graduates from the Disability Disciplines Doctoral Program.

Number of Professional Presentations

We interpret the results on number of professional presentations at time of graduation as indicating that, overall, the program is very successful at giving students numerous opportunities to conduct professional presentations.  As we indicated in the table above, this is relevant to objectives in the areas of (a) research, and (b) disciplinary knowledge.

Number of Refereed Publications

We interpret the results on the number of refereed publications at the time of graduation as indicating that we are successful in supporting the large majority of students in producing multiple refereed publications at the time of graduation.  We note that 78% of program graduates have two or more publications when they graduate.

Graduate Employment

Employment of our graduates is an important measure of overall program effectiveness.  We have clearly identified university faculty positions as the target role for which students are prepared.  Approximately 75% of program graduates have either obtained faculty roles or are currently in post-doctoral research positions which are a common pathway to faculty roles.  This supports the notion that the program is very successful in addressing its main purpose.

Data on student evaluations are available here[TS2] .  Note that our most current data from student evaluations combine all three of our graduate programs.

Data-Based Decisions

Making changes to program requirements is done through a three-step, data-based process:

  1. Any faculty member or student participating in the program can suggest a change by sending an email directly to the program chair or by bringing up the issue during a program committee meeting.
  2. The issue is thoroughly discussed and a solution proposed in one or more meetings of the program executive committee which is composed of the coordinators of each of the program specializations. The executive committee may convene workgroups composed of program faculty to study specific issues. Once a potential change to program requirements is agreed upon by the executive committee, the issue is brought before the full program committee.
  3. The discussion regarding the proposed change is summarized for the full program committee and committee members are given the opportunity to comment on the proposed change. If there is consensus on the proposed change, a formal vote is taken to approve the program change and the change is then implemented. If there is not consensus, further discussion and research can take place and the process repeats itself.

The following programmatic changes have been implemented via the above data-based decision making process:

Data Response
Feedback from students and reports from faculty that the Literature Review product requirement had become a “bottleneck” in the program. Data indicate that many students have not completed their Literature Review until after their proposal meetings – this requires waiver of our usual policy. We established, and then revised, a course on evidence-based practice that features extensive instruction on process of conducting systematic reviews of literature.
Faculty and students continued to report that the literature review requirement was delaying student progress in the program.  Data continue to indicate that Literature Review is completed too late in students’ programs.  In addition, faculty and students report that this product consumes an inordinate amount of time. Allow multiple students to collaborate on systematic literature reviews to fulfill program requirements.
Feedback from faculty that there was a need to strengthen the amount of instruction in disability related issues.  This was revealed in conversations between faculty and students as well as through examination of publications and other products.  The faculty found that students in each specialization gain disciplinary knowledge in their specialization but do not display knowledge of the broader social and political aspects of disabilities. We removed core electives added a requirement that all students take a course in social and political aspects of disabilities.
Feedback that the removal of student choice of courses in the core coursework was causing scheduling problems and inflexibility in developing programs of study that met students’ individual needs. The data indicating this problem came from faculty descriptions of their advising experiences. We approved the creation of additional core courses to allow students choice and flexibility.
Faculty reported a lack of clarity regarding what constituted a core course in the program.  Again, data stem from faculty descriptions of their advising experiences. We specified the requirements for a course to be considered a core course and specified a procedure for the approval of new core courses.
Feedback from students that product and internship requirements were not always clear.  Although data indicated that these requirements were being completed, students reported that they relied on individual advisors and informal channels of information such as examples from more senior students to understand expectations. We systematized the documentation of required products and internships in the following by creating specific forms for each product and internship that described the requirements for completion.  And links to these documents from the program website. (These documents are linked from the “Assessment Plan” section of this document.)
Faculty reported difficulty tracking completion of products. With the university’s adoption of Box, we created Box folders for each student with product forms in each and developed a system where all product and internships can be documented and tracked using Box.