Doctor of Education in Special Education

Program Description

The Doctor of Education in Special Education prepares individuals to assume leadership roles in special education, serving as faculty in institutions of higher education, consultants to educational agencies, and administrators in special education programs. Graduates of WMU Special Education doctoral program are prepared to contribute to the knowledge and research base in education and to be discerning consumers of evidence-based practices in education.

This program is designed for students who have earned a masters degree in special education or related field and completed at least one endorsement in special education.

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 educations to function as college professors in a department of special education or 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 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 by the department that the student should be permitted to continue study toward a doctoral degree.

Application process

Applicants are expected to satisfy all requirements for admission to the doctoral program by the Graduate College. Prospective students must also have acquired a minimum of two years of successful professional experience with people with disabilities. Admission to the program is contingent on a satisfactory score on the Graduate Record Examination and the successful completion of a personal interview with a committee comprised of graduate faculty of the Special Education program in the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies. Acceptance to the program is contingent upon alignment of program competencies and the applicant’s interests and experiences.

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 to advise the applicant, 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.

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 with students with disabilities.
  3. Complete the departmental application to the doctoral program:
    • Provide a letter of intent to enter the doctoral program.
    • Provide a resume including 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.
    • Provide goals and objectives: Applicants should indicate reasons for wishing to pursue doctoral study and should identify professional aspirations for the future.
    • Provide a 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 five above will be contacted to schedule a personal interview with the graduate faculty of the Special Education Program. Such an interview will be scheduled for 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 the doctoral study based 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 reasons for their non-acceptance and/or present further information regarding admissions request.

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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 to advise the applicant, 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 the 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 develop a proposal. The Committee will then formally approve the proposal for the dissertation. The Dissertation Advisor and the Committee will then support 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 of Dissertation Committee structure).

Curriculum

Credit requirements

  • Fulfill all requirements of The Graduate College
  • Complete a minimum of ninety (90) semester hours of graduate credit (beyond the BS or BA degree) with an overall grade point average of 3.25 in all graduate work.

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 and dependent upon the individual student’s background but requires all students to demonstrate competence in five basic areas. The five areas are Foundations of Special Education, Higher Education, Administration and Supervision (if appropriate), Research and Statistics.

Internships

During the course of doctoral study and prior to the student’s admission to candidacy, the student will be required, through one or more internships, to demonstrate competency in college teaching and, if appropriate, an internship in administration of programs and services for the student with disabilities. If an individual has had previous teaching and can satisfactory demonstrate competence in this area, the college teaching requirement may be waved. 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 Special Education Program. The examination is generally taken during the last semester of course work and 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 (if appropriate)
  • 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. The time structure will be adjusted to accommodate the student’s schedule.

Students who are unsuccessful in the first examination may:

  • Retake the total examination.
  • Retake a designated section or sections.
  • Augment their program of study and retake all or a portion of the examination.
  • 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 the 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 scheduling the oral examination.

Candidacy

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

  • Completion of any special requirements established at the time of admission.
  • Graduate Dean's approval of the student's Permanent Program of Study as approved by the Department Graduate Faculty.
  • An overall grade point average of 3.25 or better.
  • Completion of all basic course requirements.
  • Completion of all research tool requirements.
  • Successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination.
  • Appointment of a doctoral Dissertation Committee and approval by the Committee of the student's dissertation proposal.

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 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:

  • Require a revision and resubmission of the dissertation without an additional oral defense.
  • Require a revision and resubmission of the dissertation and require a second oral defense.
  • Reject the dissertation and require another research proposal to be submitted.

Graduation

To graduate, the student:

  • Will be allowed a period of seven years from the date of admission to complete all requirements.
  • Must complete all courses, seminars and other requirements with an overall grade point average of 3.25.
  • Must have an approved dissertation by the appropriate groups and completed as required by The Graduate College.
  • Must satisfactorily complete the oral examination.
  • Is responsible for providing a bound copy of the corrected dissertation to each member of the dissertation committee.

Graduation information