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Special Education

Ph.D. Program Structure

The Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Kansas focuses on the formation of scholars, highly-competent and socially-committed educational researchers, leaders, and teacher educators who design, develop, and use educational and social interventions that result in transformational outcomes. Because such a professional identity requires students to play an active role in its development, the doctoral program is premised on four instructional principles: (a) problem-centered learning focusing on the formulation of significant research questions and specification of corresponding methods of inquiry; (b) apprenticeship with multiple mentors involving intentionality, collective responsibility, recognition, respect, trust, and reciprocity; (c) creating and sustaining a safe and engaging intellectual community/culture in which students feel support among themselves and in collegial relations with faculty; and (d) scholarly integration in which the teaching and research mission of the department and faculty is closely linked.

Doctoral Program Plan of Study (pdf)


The social context of the doctoral program is multicultural and multi-national. Coming from various backgrounds, cultures, and countries our students develop a global understanding of (dis)ability, education, and social systems. We continue to encourage applicants from across the globe and are pleased each year to welcome international students to our doctoral cohort.

Focus on Research

Doctoral students are grounded in interdisciplinary theoretical knowledge and prepared in the full range of methodological approaches to enable them to engage in transformational research. This process begins in the first semester as students quickly become immersed with their advisors and other faculty in research aimed at enhancing the quality of life of persons with (dis)abilities and their families. This apprenticeship continues through the point where students are capable of conceptualizing and leading their own research endeavors.

The Scholarship of Teaching

All doctoral students use interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks and a range of research methodologies to understand how teachers and other practitioners develop and improve their practice over time.  The complex relationships between pedagogies, the design frameworks for learning environments, the needs of learners, and teaching interventions are explored in a number of ways throughout the program.  Key to our scholarship is a focus on the relationship between outcomes for P-12 students and the preparation of teachers.

Program Components and Credit Hour Distribution


Specialization Experiences (24)

Scholarly Experiences (12)

SPED Core (6)

(9) Specialization Courses

(3) Cross-Specialization Seminar

(6) Internships

(6) Outside Courses

(9) Praxis Seminars

(3) Cross-Specialization Seminar

(6) SPED Core

Minor or Cognate

(3) Research Minor or (6) Cognate Area

SOE Core

(3) EDUC 800

Research Skills

(15) Research Courses

Comprehensive Exams


(18) Dissertation

Let us know you are interested.

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