Jul 12, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Special Education, Ed.D.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Colleges, Schools, and Academic Programs

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 48 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 48 credit hours post-master’s degree (not including pre-requisite courses), 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.

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. 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. 


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.

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.


Special Education Concentration 48 credits 

First Year (18 credits)

Second Year (18 credits)

Third Year (12 credits)

Spring (6 credits)

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Colleges, Schools, and Academic Programs