Special Education

Ph.D. Program Structure

The focus of the Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Kansas is the formation of scholars, highly-competent, socially-committed educational researchers, leaders, and teacher educators who design, develop, and use educational and social interventions that result in transformational outcomes. While the aim of the program is to prepare such scholars for tenure-line faculty positions in top tier research universities, program graduates’ knowledge and skill attainment prepare them for positions throughout the education enterprise and beyond. Graduates hold leadership positions around the country and the globe at top research universities, teacher preparation institutions, private and university affiliated research centers, foundations, research and development companies, and in various state and federal education agencies and legislative bodies.

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

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Wayne Sailor directs KU’s largest grant, the $24.5 million SWIFT project, to develop a national center to assist schools
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
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