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School of Education

Special Education Ph.D. Specialization


The Ph.D. specialization in Special Education is dedicated to the generation and application of knowledge about the development and education of children and adolescents with learning problems. This specialization views these problems within the contexts of school, family, and community and draws on knowledge from multiple disciplines as a base to understand such problems and to enhance opportunities for children and adolescents to improve their learning and enhance their overall quality of life. This advanced training program is designed to prepare individuals to conduct scholarly research on the development and education of children in schools and support the development and implementation of effective programs in schools.

Specialization Courses

The following specialization courses are required of all students in this specialization in addition to the Doctoral Core Courses:

  • Issues and Research in Exceptionality
  • Doctoral Seminar in Special Education
  • Two additional courses in research methods, measurement or statistics, selected in consultation with your academic advisor

General Course Requirements (varies)

Students are expected to acquire broad knowledge of the field of special education. In addition to the specialization exam and supervised research, a student will demonstrate this knowledge through courses taken in the School of Education as part of this Ph.D. program, through courses taken previously as part of a degree program, or through both. In order to fulfill the objective of a broad knowledge base in the field of special education, a student may be required to take selected courses. During the first academic semester, a student’s academic advisor will review your credentials and make such determinations. Knowledge in the following content areas is required:

  • characteristics of exceptional children/youth
  • educational assessment
  • behavior analysis and classroom management
  • at least 3 of the following areas:
    1. instructional methods in reading
    2. instructional methods in mathematics
    3. instructional methods in mild disabilities
    4. instructional methods in severe disabilities

In addition to coursework in the above areas, a student will take courses in a specialized area of interest in the field of special education or related disciplines. These courses will be selected in concert with the student’s academic advisor from regularly scheduled courses, seminars, and independent study. The student’s program of study must be approved by the student’s Advisory Committee.

Specialization Area Exam Policy

This specialization area does not require a specialization area examination.

Affiliated Faculty

Listed here are the faculty who teach and serve as advisors in the Special Education Ph.D. specialization:

  • Dr. Gary S. Allisonteaches undergraduate and graduate courses in special education methods, applied behavior analysis, severe and profound disabilities, diversity issues in the classroom and service learning. His instructional interests center around professional preparation and development of special education teachers. His clinical practice interests include: behavior change and support for students with severe/profound disabilities who exhibit health and life dangerous behaviors and the creation of meaningful educational experiences for students with severe/profound disabilities. 
  • Dr. Al Cavalier teaches courses in classroom management, behavior support, assistive technology, and distance education. His primary research interests are in assistive technologies to enhance the independence and productivity of persons with cognitive and physical disabilities, self-regulation techniques to teach children to monitor their use of cognitive strategies and manage their own behavior, and instructional design of distance-learning lessons. He is director of the Assistive Technology Laboratory and co-director of the Summer Institute on Instructional and Assistive Technology. He serves on the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens and the editorial board of the journal Technology and Disability
  • Dr. Laura Eisenmanteaches courses on secondary special education and the transition from school-to-adult life for students with disabilities. Her research interests include inclusive high schools, understanding how schools can foster students’ self-determination, the social and community experiences of young adults with significant disabilities, and exploring the meaning of disability identity in educational contexts. 
  • Dr. Ralph Ferrettiteaches courses in special education research, applied human development, and special education technology. His primary research interests focus on understanding the characteristics of students with disabilities and their social and learning environments that contribute to difficulties in problem solving, on understanding the development of children’s argumentation in the context of ill-defined problems, and on developing instructional techniques and multimedia tools that promote the development of their critical thinking and argumentation skills. He is a frequent reviewer for the American Journal on Mental Retardation, Intelligence, and other professional journals. 
  • Dr. Nancy Jordan teaches courses in the characteristics, assessment, and diagnosis of children with learning disabilities. Her research program focuses on children with learning difficutlites in math. She is Principal Investigator of the Children’s Math Project, which is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Dr. Jordan has published in journals such as the Journal of Educational Psychology, the Journal of Learning Disabilities, and Child Development. She serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Learning Disabilities and Learning Disabilities Research and Practice. 
  • Dr. Charles MacArthurteaches courses in literacy instruction for students with disabilities, curriculum and methods in special education, and the use of educational technology. His primary research interests include writing development and instruction for students with learning disabilities, the development of self-regulated strategies, and applications of technology in teaching reading and writing. He is Co-Editor of The Journal of Special Education and serves on the editorial boards of Exceptional Children, Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Learning Disability Quarterly, and Learning Disability Research and Practice. 
  • Dr. Kristen D. Ritchey teaches courses on instructional methods for elementary and intermediate students with disabilities. Her research interests are in the area of reading disabilities, specifically early identification and intervention for children in kindergarten and first grade.

School of Education  •  113 Willard Hall Education Building  •  Newark, DE 19716
Phone: (302) 831-8695  •  Fax: (302) 831-4110  ©2013