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College of Education and Human Development

Reading Horizons Journal
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McGinnis Reading Center and Clinic
McGinnis Reading Center and Clinic

Special Education - Doctor of Education

Special Education - Doctor of Education

Program Description

The Doctor of Education: Special Education is a competency-based graduate program designed to prepare an individual to serve as a college teacher in a department of special education and as an administrator of educational programs for children and youth with disabilities.

Students interested in the Doctoral Program in Special Education at Western Michigan University are referred to the Graduate Policy Handbook (GPH) and the Graduate College Catalog (GCC) for the policies of the University which govern the admission, program, and graduation requirements of the University for doctoral students. The handbook may be obtained from The Graduate College, Western Michigan University and the catalog from the University Bookstore.

Program Goals

  1. To prepare special educators to serve as leadership personnel in the field of special education.
  2. To prepare special educators to function in administrative roles in the education of learners with disabilities.
  3. To prepare special educators to function as college professors in a department of special education or its equivalent.
  4. To prepare special educators to develop and complete research projects employing appropriate research and statistical methodology.

Admissions

A student admitted to the doctoral program with more than twenty (20) hours of graduate study must request status as an applicant after completing one full semester of graduate work at WMU or forty (40) semester hours of graduate work, whichever comes first.

Criteria for being awarded status as an applicant include:

  1. An overall grade point average of at least 3.25 in all graduate work completed.
  2. Commitment to a specific degree program.
  3. A decision of the department that the student should be permitted to continue study toward a doctoral degree.

Admission Application

  1. Complete the Graduate College Application. Satisfy all requirements for admission to doctoral programs specified by the Graduate College and be approved by the Graduate College.
  2. Have completed a minimum of two years of successful professional experience in education or an allied field, one of which must have been with persons with disabilities. Applicants seeking leadership positions in public school administration should have at least three years of professional experience in a special education setting.
  3. File a letter of intent with the chair of the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies. Indicate your desire to be considered for admission to the Doctoral Program and provide the following:
    • Personal information and background data: Applicants should include a detailed description of past professional experiences and responsibilities. Applicants may also include other background and personal information they wish to bring to the attention of the Department.
    • Goals and objectives: Applicants should indicate reasons for wishing to pursue doctoral study and should identify professional aspirations for the future.
    • Tentative time schedule: Applicants should list approximate dates for entering and concluding the program and make specific reference to the date full-time residency will be initiated. (See GPH)
  4. Attain a minimum score at the 50th percentile on the Graduate Record Examination.
  5. Provide at least three letters of recommendation from individuals in the field of special education with whom the applicant has had extensive professional/educational contact.

Admission Interview

Applicants who have successfully met the admissions criteria through step 5 above will be contacted to schedule a personal interview with the graduate faculty of the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies. Such an interview will be scheduled at the mutual convenience of the applicant and the faculty and may be waived for students traveling from foreign countries. During the interview, the applicant can be expected to present:

  1. Evidence of personal commitment to doctoral study and to special education.
  2. Evidence of personal professional goals and congruence of those with the goals of the Doctoral Program within the Department.
  3. Evidence of professional behavior and demeanor.

Acceptance

Following the interview, the graduate faculty will determine the final acceptance of the applicant for doctoral study based on the admission information, the interview and the willingness of a member of the graduate faculty to work with the student in developing the student's program. Applicants may be granted regular acceptance into the program, may be accepted with some specific conditions stipulated, or may be denied acceptance. Applicants who are not accepted may appeal to the graduate faculty for a second interview to review the reasons for their non-acceptance and/or present further information regarding their admission request.

Graduate Teaching Assistants

The Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies typically hires 3-4 teaching assistants to assist faculty with teaching during the fall and spring semesters.  Graduate students wishing to be considered for one of these positions should send a letter of interest and a resume to the chair.

Advising

Program Advisor

Following the interview with the applicant, at least one member of the graduate faculty of the department must express a willingness to work with the student as program advisor in order for the student to be accepted into the program. If two or more faculty members indicate a willingness, the department chair will designate one to become program advisor. The program advisor will work with the student in developing the student's overall program and may or may not become the student's dissertation advisor.

Dissertation Advisor and Committee

The student will select a Dissertation Advisor from approved faculty in the Department. The Dissertation Advisor will guide the student in developing a prospectus (concept paper) regarding the dissertation. Keeping in mind the nature of the topic, the student, in conjunction with the Dissertation Advisor, will nominate Committee members and present these recommendations to the Dean of the Graduate College. The Dean will appoint the members of the Dissertation Committee, appoint a Graduate Faculty Representative and notify the Dissertation Advisor of the appointments. The Graduate Representative will act as a non-voting observer and participant throughout the dissertation process. With the help of the Dissertation Committee, the student will formulate a proposal from the prospectus. The Committee will then formally approve the proposal for the dissertation. The Dissertation Advisor and the Committee will then aid the student in completing the review process as specified by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board (HSIRB), if appropriate. (See GPH and GCC for requirements for Dissertation Committee structure.)

Curriculum

Credit Requirements

Program of Study

The student and program advisor will develop the program of study. This program will require graduate faculty approval prior to submission to The Graduate College.

Program Competency Areas

The doctoral program is flexible dependent upon the individual student's background but requires all students to demonstrate competence in five basic areas. The objectives for each area are delineated followed by possible acquisition modes available to the student.

Internships

During the course of doctoral study and prior to the student's admission to candidacy, the student will be required, through two internships, to demonstrate competency in college teaching and undergraduate advisement and in administration of programs and services for the students with disabilities. If an individual has had previous teaching and/or administrative experience and can satisfactorily demonstrate competence in either or both of these areas, either or both internship requirements may be waived. No credit will be awarded to those granted waivers and additional courses may be required to meet the minimum requirement of ninety (90) semester hours.

Comprehensive Examination

The doctoral student will be required to successfully complete a written examination prepared and administered by the graduate faculty of the department. This examination is generally taken during the last semester of course work upon recommendation of the program advisor. The written comprehensive examination will consist of twelve (12) hours of examination and will include:

  1. Two-hour questions in each of the following areas:
    • Foundations of Special Education
    • Higher Education
    • Administration and Supervision
    • Research
    • Statistics
  2. One-hour questions in each of the two research tool areas.

In those instances where the research tool questions are combined with questions in one of the other competency areas, the length of time for answering the questions will be adjusted to reflect both questions with the total number of hours for the total exam remaining at twelve (12). The time structure will be adjusted to reflect the composition of the questions such as two six-hour days or three four-hour days.

Students who are unsuccessful in the first examination may

  1. retake the total examination,
  2. retake a designated section or sections,
  3. augment their program of study and retake all or a portion of the examination, or
  4. be dismissed from the program, depending upon the action of the graduate faculty of the department. Students failing the second examination will be dismissed from the program.

Dissertation

All students admitted to the doctoral program in special education will be required to successfully complete a scholarly dissertation according to and human development and Graduate College specifications. When a proposal has received written approval by all members of the Dissertation Committee and approval has been granted by the HSIRB, the student may proceed in the implementation and completion of the dissertation. If, during the conduct of the dissertation research, major deviations from the proposal occur or appear to be imminent, the student will need approval from the Dissertation Committee to continue the research study. Final copies of the dissertation will be submitted to each member of the committee including the graduate faculty representative and must receive formal written approval by the committee prior to the scheduling of the oral examination.

Candidacy

Prior to the term or semester in which the dissertation is defended, the student is required to demonstrate

Dissertation Advisor and Committee

The student will select a dissertation advisor from approved faculty in the department. The dissertation advisor will guide the student in developing a prospectus (concept paper) regarding the dissertation. Keeping in mind the nature of the topic, the student, in conjunction with the dissertation advisor, will nominate committee members and present these recommendations to the dean of the Graduate College. The dean will appoint the members of the Dissertation Committee, appoint a graduate faculty representative and notify the dissertation advisor of the appointments. The graduate representative will act as a non-voting observer and participant throughout the dissertation process. With the help of the dissertation committee, the student will formulate a proposal from the prospectus. The committee will then formally approve the proposal for the dissertation. The dissertation advisor and the committee will then aid the student in completing the review process as specified by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board, if appropriate.

Oral Defense

The student will submit the oral defense application and an abstract of the dissertation to the Graduate College at least 10 working days prior to the oral defense. The oral defense must not be scheduled without completion of all program requirements except the dissertation. The dissertation advisor will conduct the oral examination together with the members of the student's dissertation committee and the graduate faculty representative. Acceptance of the dissertation and the oral defense by all of the committee members will be required before the dissertation will be judged as satisfactory for submission to The Graduate College (abstentions shall be considered negative votes).

If the dissertation is not accepted, the committee may:

  1. require a revision and resubmission of the dissertation without an additional oral defense,
  2. require a revision and resubmission of the dissertation and require a second oral defense, or
  3. reject the dissertation and require another research proposal to be submitted.

Graduation

To graduate, the student:

Graduation Information