Courses & Concentrations

General Requirements

All doctoral students in the School of Education will take EDU 781 - Institutions and Processes of Education (3 credits).

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.

Courses on Methods of Research and/or Scholarly Inquiry

Students must take 12-15 credits on methods of research and/or other forms of scholarly inquiry. The requirement is usually best met for Special Education Ph.D. students by completing EDU 603 Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods and EDU/EDP 647 Statistical Thinking and Applications Methods of Educational Research, plus at least 6 credits in additional expertise appropriate for the student's interests and dissertation. Students may select other 12 credit sequences with the approval of his or her advisor. 

Research Apprenticeship Requirement

Ph.D. students must complete a research apprenticeship prior to beginning work on the dissertation. Some students complete the research apprenticeship experience within the context of a regular course. Other students contract with their sponsor for an independent study course carrying 3 to 6 hours. Still others conduct the apprenticeship without any formal hours attached to it. This mentored research experience often leads to a professional co-authored publication.

Qualifying Examination Requirement

The students will take the Qualifying Examination when they have completed their coursework. 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. The exam covers the major field and, if applicable, the minor or Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS).


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.


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

  • Inclusive Educational Studies
  • Disability Studies & Policy

The purpose of selecting one of these areas of study is to help bring focus to student’s coursework plans, research activities, internships and career planning. Students are not limited to any one particular area and are encouraged to take courses and participate in seminars that expand or contribute to their research interests.

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.

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. Example courses include:

  • SPE 634 - Collaboration/Cooperation in Inclusive Schools
  • SPE 642 - Special Education/Italy
  • SPE 644 - Significant Disabilities: Shifts in Paradigms and Practices
  • SPE 653 - Positive Approaches to Challenging Behavior
  • SPE 701 - Curriculum Development: Field Based Projects
  • SPE 705 - Psychoeducational Evaluation and Planning
  • SPE 706 - Seminar on Infants and Young Children with Special Needs
  • SPE 618 - Augmentative Communication in the Inclusive Classroom
  • SPE 700 - Special Topics: Literacy, Disability and Inclusion
  • SPE 724 - Differentiating Instruction
  • SPE 727 - Perspectives on Learning Disabilities
  • SPE 860 - 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).

Students will also have the opportunity to be directly involved in practicum settings, including:

  • 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.

Opportunities are available for mentored college teaching experiences, conducting in-service seminars and collaborating with faculty members in research, teaching, and grant writing. Workshops in teaching at the college level will deal with issues and approaches to college teaching. 

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. 

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.

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.

In consultation with your advisor, each doctoral student is required to identify a core sequence of courses in Disability Studies and Policy Studies. These courses are often also used toward the C.A.S. in Disability Studies. Example courses 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.

The Research Apprenticeship Requirement (RAP) is often fulfilled through 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.