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Special Education Specialization

The Special Education specialization of the Disability Disciplines Ph.D. prepares graduates to be effective university faculty in special education who significantly improve children's lives through research, scholarship, and teaching.

This doctoral specialization offers students a unique combination of:

  • extensive collaboration with faculty
  • direct experience in research and scholarship, teaching, supervision, and writing
  • behavior analytic orientation to special education
  • focus on producing outstanding special education services


Program Contact
Elise Gonzalez

Graduate Program Coordinator



The department's extensive teacher preparation programs provide ideal settings for doctoral students to learn how to prepare highly effective special education teachers.

The department's many research and development projects provide outstanding opportunities for doctoral students to gain experience in developing products and conducting research.  Students collaborate with faculty and are also encouraged to pursue their own research interests.  Faculty research and development projects address reading, English language learners, direct instruction, teacher education, distance education and multimedia, autism, transition and employment and other topics.


Required coursework is a blend of broad multidisciplinary courses and focused specialization courses.  Core coursework, common to all areas of disability disciplines, includes multidisciplinary courses that bring together diverse perspectives on disabilities, effective services, and research methodology.  Specialization courses provide deep coverage of current developments in special education research and practice.

Core Coursework

Course Title / Description Credits (17/19)
EDUC 6570 Introduction to Education and Psychological Research
Introduction to research methods including identifying research questions, conducting research literature reviews, and design and implementation of research projects. (Students should enroll in the section of this course that is designated for full-time doctoral students.)
EDUC 6600 Measurement, Design, & Analysis
This course integrates concepts in measurement, research design, and statistical analysis for research in psychology and education. (STAT 5200 is an acceptable substitution.)
REH/SPED 7820 Seminar: Special Topics
In-depth study of special topics in special education and rehabilitation. Seminars examine historical aspects, relevant research, and theoretical positions on selected topics.
1 (3)
SPED 7400 Multicultural Issues in Disability
This seminar will focus on the juxtaposition of disability and ethnic/cultural/linguistic diversity. Three broad areas will be presented. The first area will focus on the ethnic/cultural/linguistic demography of disability. The second area will focus on the prejudice, discrimination, and handicapism and the ways in which these forces impact upon an individual who has a disability and who is a member of an ethnic/cultural/linguistic minority group. The third area will focus on practice applications, translating the concept of the first two areas into practical suggestions for professional practice.
SPED 7920 Doctoral Orientation Seminar
Orients new students to the doctoral program including career planning, program planning, fundamental concepts of scientific research and literature review, and knowledge of the available facilities and faculty members.
SPED 7940 Journal Reading Group
Under faculty direction, students read and discuss published research. Students learn to critique empirical and theoretical papers as well as current research findings in important areas of Disability Disciplines.
SPED 7820 Evidence-Based Practice
This seminar explores evidence-based practice as a framework for providing the most effective possilbe services to persons with disabilities by linking research and practice. Students will learn processes for posing appropriate clinical questions, systematically and critically reviewing research, and developing formal practice quidelines.
USU 6900 Research Integrity
The purpose of this class is to provide an underpinning of ethical conduct for students entering the research enterprise at USU. The course is designed for graduate students based on regulatory requirements from federal funding agencies. Subjects covered are ethical treatment of human participants in research, conflicts of interest, ethical care and use of animals in research, collaborative science, data ownership, management and sharing, mentor/trainee relationships, authorship and publication practices, research misconduct and peer review.

Special Education Coursework

Course Title / Description Credits (16)
SPED 7700 Single Subject Research Methods
Examines single-subject research methods for applied research, including measurement, design and analysis issues.
SPED 7730 Advanced Topics in Behavior Analysis
Discussion of advanced topics and issues in behavior analysis, including rule-governed behavior, stimulus control, settings events, functional analysis, and verbal behavior. Topics integrated into educational practice.
SPED 7940 Journal Reading Group
Under faculty direction, students read and discuss published research. Students learn to critique empirical and theoretical papers as well as current research findings in important areas of Disability Disciplines.
Various Seminars in Special Education
Students take 6 credits of additional seminars in special education. Eligible courses include SPED 7050, SPED 7500, SPED 7800, SPED 7810, SPED 7820, and SPED 7830.
Various Additional Research Methods
Students take 3 credits of additional research methods. Eligible courses include EDUC 6610, SPED 7710, EDUC 7610, and PSY 7670.


Preliminary Exams

Preliminary exams are conducted after approximately one year of full time study (or the equivalent) and provide a focus for students to attain foundational skills in research design and critique, and disciplinary knowledge. This three part exams is completed across a three day period. Components of the exam are:

  • Foundations of Special Education. Specific questions focus on key foundational knowledge of special education.
  • Design of Research. The student outlines the design of a research project on a given topic relevant to special education.
  • Critique of Research. The student critiques a manuscript reporting research within special education.

Professional Products and Internships

A set of professional products and internships provide opportunities for mentored experience in critical professional skills.


The dissertation is the capstone experience of the doctoral program. The student plans, carries out, analyzes, and interprets substantial original research that contributes to the advancement of their field of study.


Dr. Tim Slocum

Dr. Kaitlin Bundock
Assistant Professor

Dr. Bob Morgan

Dr. Sarah Pinkelman
Assistant Professor

Dr. Tom Higbee
Professor and Department Head