Jul 16, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Special Education, Ed.D.

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About the Program

Graduates of the Ed.D. program will be up-to-date on the most recent developments in the field, will learn how to assess and alter their organization’s practices, and will have the capacity to implement best practice programs to benefit students, schools and communities.

Arcadia’s doctoral program in Special Education offers a Doctor of Education degree earned by engaging in intensive study and completing an approved doctoral dissertation. The program is designed to increase the students’ levels of professional expertise in the field of special education and to develop the skills necessary to implement best practices programs effectively in natural settings. This program focuses on preparing educational leaders for schools in supervisory, curricular, and/or administrative capacities.

The guiding philosophy of the special education doctoral program is composed of several key components integrated into the program through expectations, coursework and mentorship. Students are challenged to work toward integrating the following into their academic performance and professional lives:

  • Willingness to consider new ideas
  • Embracing community inclusion and diversity
  • Critical thinking
  • Systemic critique and reform
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Critical self-reflection
  • Social action
  • Ethical practices and conduct
  • Ongoing professional development and life-long learning
  • Research-based practices
The Cohort Model

The Ed.D. program in Special Education facilitates collaboration and teamwork through a modified cohort model. Students enter the program with a group of colleagues with whom they take courses and progress through the program. Cohort models have a number of advantages for students and faculty alike.

  • Cohorts provide students with study and support groups that enable them to gain maximum benefits from coursework and research.
  • Cohorts enable students to support each other as a group while accomplishing the major milestones of the program, including their qualifying paper and dissertation.
  • Because students move through the core program as a group, faculty are aware of what they have been taught and what is yet to be covered; this is especially important in addressing the research/critical thinking portion of the curriculum and building solid research skills.
  • Cohorts provide for high levels of ongoing support for individual student work and research development.

The cohort model allows students to move through the critical thinking/research component of the program as a group and, as such, to work supportively and collaboratively on developing, implementing, and writing their qualifying papers and dissertations.

Students’ progress and timelines will vary during the dissertation proposal, implementation, and writing process. Contributing factors include the subject of the dissertation, the meeting of established timelines, issues of participants and implementation, data analysis, and writing skills.

Program Structure

A minimum of 60 credit hours post-master’s degree, including 12 pre-requisite credits and 18 credits of research courses are required for the doctoral degree in special education.

Coursework is organized around a series of courses including: essential background courses, research methods, and content area information. Each semester’s courses integrate these three curricular areas so that students have continuous exposure to and practice in critical thinking and research methods as they gain content area knowledge.

The focus of all coursework is to teach students how to think critically and systematically about special education at both the micro-level (i.e., the impact of various programs or interventions on students and classrooms) and the macro-level (i.e., school- or district-wide impact). The program stresses the cultural, social, political ramifications of special education categorization, curriculum, instruction, as well as models and methods of service delivery. From the first day of the program, students utilize real-life cases and analyze relevant materials as they examine special education programs operating in schools, communities and agencies.

Academic Policies and Procedures

Completion of Coursework

A minimum of 60 credit hours post-master’s degree, including 18 credit hours of research courses are required for the doctoral degree.

Continuous Enrollment

Students must be enrolled continuously in the Ed.D. program. In case of a personal emergency, the student may petition the Division of Student Success for a leave of absence; however, this is not guaranteed.


A student who has withdrawn from a graduate program for personal reasons, (that is, other than dismissal for academic or ethical reasons) may reapply within one year of that withdrawal by sending a letter requesting reinstatement to the School of Education. The request will be sent to the appropriate departmental admissions committee, which will communicate its decision to the student. In some cases, a student may be asked to submit materials updating the original application. If the withdrawal was granted contingent upon some action(s) on the part of the student, the student also will be required to demonstrate that the recommended steps have been taken. If more than one year has elapsed, a completely new application must be submitted to the Office of Enrollment Management.

Time Limits

All coursework must be completed within five years of admission to study. Dissertation must be completed within five years of admission to candidacy. Students who do not complete the dissertation at the end of the third year will be required to enroll in an ongoing one-credit per semester Dissertation Preparation II (ED 902) until their dissertation is completed, defended, and approved.

While the program is designed to be completed in three to four years, the amount of time a student may need to complete his or her dissertation, write, and defend it may vary.

Qualifying Project

In the first and second semesters of their first year of doctoral study (Practioner Research I & II), students begin to work on their qualifying submission which includes two literature reviews and a Self As Scholar paper. Combined these three documents are the Qualifying Project. Through this requirement, students demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of their area of interest. The literature reviews include a comprehensive review of the literature and questions or issues in need of research, focusing upon the area of research that will constitute the doctoral dissertation. Faculty advisers for the qualifying project include the professors of Action Research I & II. The final paper is reviewed and assessed by the student’s professors and one additional faculty member from the program. It is expected that the literature review portion of the qualifying paper will be publication quality.


Students will advance to doctoral candidacy upon successful completion of all of the following requirements: (1) the first year of study with a minimum GPA of 3.0; (2) a successful First Year Evaluation and faculty approval for continuance; and (3) passing the qualifying project. A copy of the qualifying project and the appropriate paperwork will placed on file for review by the Department Chair and the Graduate Dean.

Exit Strategies

Students who are not making appropriate progress will be counseled out of the program at the end of that given year of coursework. Students who engage in any other reason for dismissal (cheating, plagiarism) may be asked to leave immediately or at the end of the semester. Continuance in the program for those with under a 3.0 GPA will be conditional for the next semester provided their grade point average improves to at least that level during that time.

Development of the Dissertation Proposal

During the research course series doctoral candidates will learn research methodology as well as progress steadily on their dissertation proposal. During years 2 & 3 students will have the opportunity to develop a Dissertation Action Plan (presented in class) including topic area, goals, research questions, target participants, design plan, scope of intervention, and preferences for Committee Chair. Once a committee Chair has been assigned to the candidate and they have met to finalize research questions and consider methodology, the Chair and the candidate will collaboratively choose the other members of the Dissertation Committee. While the Proposal requires much individual effort it is the intention of the coursework in research to support the development of the Proposal by the middle of the third year of class.

Proposal Defense

The dissertation proposal is reviewed first by the chair, then by the committee. The chair decides when a proposal is ready for defense. During the defense, the proposal is presented to the student’s committee, with the education faculty invited to attend and pose questions. Final passage of the proposal and necessary revisions is decided by the committee.


Dissertations are intended to provide students with a meaningful academic research experience that contributes knowledge to the field of special education, contributes to improving special education practice in the field, and documents student mastery of chosen research methods.

Dissertations are evaluated on their innovation and contribution to the field of special education, organization, written expression, research methodology, and data analysis.

Students work on high-quality applied research projects grounded in data from the field.

Dissertations are individually developed, written, and assessed according to such standards as would govern publication in a juried journal. Members of the student’s dissertation committee work closely with the student to develop and supervise the project.

Dissertations may span the continuum of special education influence from rigorous and comprehensive case studies or program evaluation to an original research project employing single subject design.

Methodologies may include qualitative or quantitative data collection and analysis with a preference for mixed methods. The written dissertation should incorporate the following standard sections:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction/Rationale/Overview and Statement of the Problem
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review Chapter 3: Methods
  • Chapter 4: Research Findings
  • Chapter 5: Conclusions.
Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense takes place before the student’s dissertation committee and is open to Arcadia University administrators and faculty members as well as the public. Final approval of the dissertation requires written consent of all members of the Dissertation Committee.


Special Education Concentration (60 credits: 48 credits plus 12 credits of essential background courses)

First Year (18 credits)

Second Year (18 credits)

Third Year (12 credits)

Spring (6 credits)

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