Leading Through Inquiry, Inclusion, and Action
  • About
  • Future Students
  • Current Students
  • Academic Departments
  • Centers and Institutes
  • Alumni & Giving
School of Education students and faculty


The doctoral program in Special Education has two areas of emphasis that candidates can select from:

Inclusive Educational Studies

The Inclusive Educational Studies emphasis focuses on effective and innovative inclusive practice and the preparation of teachers and support personnel to teach in inclusive settings. Candidates in the program work with professors on local, regional, and national projects and research. The program is designed to prepare scholars for a variety of professional roles: developing, implementing and evaluating model inclusive programs; training future teachers and support personnel in best practices for inclusive education; conducting basic and applied research that focuses on inclusive practice.

Opportunities are available for mentored college teaching experiences, supervising teacher education students in the field; conducting in-service seminars and collaborating with faculty members in research, teaching, and grant writing. Workshops in teaching at the college level are provided through training seminars and orientation sessions, which deal with issues and approaches to college teaching. All incoming students are encouraged to participate in the Teaching Assistant Orientation Program and the Future Professoriate program, which provides mentoring to candidates interested in a career in higher education.

To effectively meet the objectives of the Inclusive Educational Studies emphasis, students participate in advanced course-work, clinical and fieldwork, teaching and supervision, and research opportunities culminating in the dissertation.

Most doctoral students enter the program with previous coursework and experiences in special education at the Master’s level. An effort is made to build on students’ prior coursework and professional experiences. In some instances, more introductory coursework in special education is required.

In consultation with your advisor, each doctoral student is required to identify a core sequence of courses in Inclusive Educational Studies. Some examples of courses in this area include:

  • Curriculum Development & Field-based Projects
  • Psychoeducational Evaluation and Planning
  • Administration and Supervision of Special Education
  • Perspectives on Learning Disabilities
  • Literacy, Disability and Inclusion
  • Teaching Children and Adolescents with Autism
  • Collaborative Teaching and Educational Consultation
  • Federal Policy and Special Education Law
  • Significant Disabilities: Shifts in Paradigms and Practice
  • Facilitated Communication
  • Positive Approaches to Challenging Behavior
  • Pro-Seminar in Special Education

In addition to coursework in the Inclusive Educational Studies emphasis, students are also expected to complete coursework in the Disability Studies and Policy, as well as in relevant areas outside the School of Education (e.g., Psychology, Sociology, Law).

In addition, 12-15 hours sequence of research courses are required of all doctoral students, as well as Institutions and Processes of Education, which is required of all doctoral students in Syracuse University's School of Education.

Students will also have the opportunity to be directly involved in practicum settings. These roles include:

  • Field supervision of undergraduate and master's level students.
  • Program development in collaboration with faculty (e.g. in professional development schools, transition programs, and in early childhood centers).
  • Internships at local schools and agencies in conjunction with faculty.
  • Collaborating with faculty on field-based grants, research, and publications.

Students are also required to complete a Research Apprenticeship (RAP) with a faculty member. This mentored research experience can be done as a part of a field-based project, a collaborative research project, or independent study.

Upon completion of coursework and the Research Apprenticeship, students take written and oral qualifying examinations. These exams are individualized for each student, with the aim of integrating and articulating each student’s specific area(s) of expertise.  Questions may cover current trends and issues in the field, research-based practice; research design and methods; and related studies.

These program requirements serve as preparation for the completion of a dissertation. Each student, in consultation with a faculty committee, designs his/her dissertation project focusing on some critical concern in inclusive instructional principles and practices.

Disability Studies and Policy

The Disability Studies and Policy Studies emphasis is designed to provide students with intensive training in both policy studies and critical special education practice. As a part of this strand, students take courses leading to a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in Disability Studies.

Disability Studies applies social, cultural, historical, and philosophical perspectives to the study of disability in society. Building on the tradition of Syracuse University's School of Education in the area of disability, the concentration is designed to help students understand and work to overcome the barriers to full participation of people with disabilities in the community and society. Consistent with the Syracuse tradition, this concentration stands at the forefront of change and new ways of thinking about and accommodating people with disabilities.

The Disability Studies and Policy Studies strand also prepares students to hold leadership positions in policy development, implementation, and research in special education and related fields. Graduates of the program are prepared for careers in higher education; federal, state, and private research organizations, national advocacy organizations, legislative bodies, and federal and state mental human service agencies.

Students in the Disability Studies and Policy Studies develop an individualized program of study in consultation with their advisor. Students develop expertise in areas such as advocacy, the history of special education, deinstitutionalization and community integration, federal policy, international perspectives on disability, law and policy studies, program evaluation, critical issues in inclusive education, sociology of disability, economics of special education, and current issues and trends.

The policy studies emphasis has four major components: coursework; Research Apprenticeship (RAP) in policy studies; written and oral qualifying examinations; and the dissertation. Doctoral students take courses in four major areas: special education law and policy; disability studies; critical perspectives; and 12-15 hours of research methods. Students also take Institutions and Processes of Education, which is required of all doctoral students in Syracuse University's School of Education.

In consultation with your advisor, each doctoral student is required to identify a core sequence of courses in Disability Studies and Policy Studies. Some examples of courses in this area include:

  • CFE 614 - Critical Issues in Disability and Inclusion
  • CFE 723 - Representation of Disability
  • DSP 621 - Sociology of Disability
  • DSP 688 - Social Policy and Disability
  • DSP 775 - Gender, Disability and Sexuality
  • DSP 700 - Special Topics: Race and Disability
  • LAW 763 - Disability Law
  • LAW 809 - Advanced Disability Law & Policy
  • LAW 896 - Education Law Seminar
  • SPE 717 - Federal Policy and Local Practice in Special Education
  • SPE 860 - ProSeminar in Special Education

While doctoral students can take a variety of courses within the School of Education, faculty also offer independent study opportunities to advanced students to enable them to concentrate on a specific policy issue or topic.

Doctoral students are also expected to take courses leading to the CAS in Disability Studies as well as several courses in policy studies, which may be offered by other divisions either within the School of Education or in other Schools in the University. Students, for example, may also take courses in sociology, economics, law, cultural foundations of education, history, social planning, public administration, management, anthropology, and communications offered in the University's Maxwell School, the College of Law, the Newhouse School of Communications, and the School of Social Work.

Finally, doctoral students are required to take coursework in quantitative and qualitative research methods, including statistics, methods of educational research, and participant observation. This coursework provides students with the tools necessary to conduct, evaluate, and interpret research in special education policy.

During their fourth or fifth semesters of graduate study, doctoral students participate in a practicum in policy analysis and implementation. The practicum provides students with the opportunity to apply their skills in theory, analysis, and research to a particular policy question.

The practicum requirement, which is designed in conjunction with each student's advisor, may be fulfilled in any one of three ways: participation in a faculty member's research project in policy; a student-initiated policy research project; or a one-semester internship at a federal, state, or private organization involved in policy research, analysis and implementation, including the Center on Human Policy. The policy practicum meets the Research Apprenticeship (RAP) requirement.

After doctoral students have completed their coursework and RAP, they complete written and oral examinations in three broad areas: current trends and issues related to special education policy; disability studies; and research methods. The examination questions reflect each student's individual program of study and are written by faculty members with whom he or she has worked closely.

Students concentrating in Disability Studies and Policy Studies complete dissertations focusing on a major policy issue in special education or services for the disabled. The dissertation is written in consultation with the student's advisor and a committee of faculty members from the Division. Each student is encouraged to choose a dissertation topic that reflects his or her career goals.