Feb 28, 2024  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 

Doctor of Philosophy - Special Education

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Plan Description

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Ph.D.) is designed with an emphasis in the development of skills in scientific inquiry and leadership. Students enrolled in this study program gain an understanding of philosophy and theory as they relate to the conduct of research and program evaluation. Graduates pursue careers in schools, institutions of higher education, research centers and agencies that require the competencies developed through a Ph.D. course of study.

For more information about your program, including your graduate program handbook and learning outcomes, please visit the Degree Directory.

Plan Admission Requirements

Application deadlines

Applications available on the UNLV Graduate College website.

Applicants to the Special Education Ph.D. program must complete the Graduate College Application for Admission and arrange to have official transcripts sent to the Graduate College. Graduate level transcripts should indicate grade point averages (and receipt of a post baccalaureate degree in special education or a related field).

The following materials also should be submitted through the online application network.

  1. A letter of application that clearly articulates professional and research goals that are related to the focus of the Ph.D. degree program in Special Education;
  2. Three letters of recommendation – at least one from an individual familiar with the applicant’s academic performance and potential for doctoral degree completion and at least one from an individual knowledgeable of the applicant’s quality of work experience;
  3. Representative samples of scholarly writing, preferably in APA style, and/or other media samples related to professional study;
  4. A resume of professional preparation and experience (a minimum of two to three years of professional experience in special education, general education or other relevant field as a teacher, administrator or related service provider for children and adults with disabilities and/or giftedness is preferred);
  5. Scores from the verbal, quantitative and analytical sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) (taken within five years from the date of application for admission). Applicants should arrange to have official notification of GRE scores sent to the Department of Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education. The department does not impose minimum GRE scores.

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that their applicant file is complete. Incomplete files will not be considered. Application materials for U.S. residents requesting financial support are due March 1.

Note: The department admissions committee may request additional materials and/or conduct a personal interview after reviewing initial applicant files.

In general, applicants will be expected to have a 3.50 grade point average on all graduate-level work and an indication of potential to complete all requirements of doctoral study successfully (provided through submitted writings or creative products, letters of recommendation and GRE results) to be admitted as doctoral students in the Department of Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education.

After Admission Committee review, the Doctoral Program Coordinator may recommend to the department faculty that the applicant be: 1) admitted fully to the Ph.D. program in special education, 2) admitted provisionally to the Ph.D. program or 3) denied admission to the Ph.D. program in special education. A recommendation for provisional admission may occur when an applicant has not met the criteria or prerequisites to do advanced graduate level work. Provisional admission requires the satisfactory completion (e.g., with a minimum 3.50 grade-point average) of nine or more credits in regularly scheduled graduate courses approved by the student’s advisor and departmental faculty. After completion of the provisional program, the Doctoral Coordinator and Department Chair recommend to the Graduate College that the student either be transferred to regular status or dropped from the program.

Note: To apply for a Graduate Assistantship, applicants must complete online the Graduate Assistant Application for the Department of Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education.

All domestic and international applicants must review and follow the Graduate College Admission and Registration Requirements.

Students are accepted into a degree program as described in the Graduate Catalog. The faculty and corresponding sub-disciplines and sub-plans within the described programs are subject to change at any time.

Plan Requirements

Total Credits Required: 72

Course Requirements

Statistics Course – Credits: 3

Complete one of the following courses, or another advisor-approved equivalent course.

Additional Research Courses – Credits: 6

Complete 6 credits from the following list of courses, or other advisor-approved courses.

Internship Course – Credits: 6

Credits must include 3 credits in Topic A: Research and 3 credits in Topic B: Teaching.

Leadership & Exceptionality Courses – Credits: 15

Complete 15 credits of advisor-approved leadership and exceptionality courses from one or more of the following leadership concentrations: Parenting, Administration, Research, Diagnosis/Assessment, Transition, Early Childhood Special Education, Early Childhood Education, Higher Education, Technology, Consultation, or Curriculum.

Complete credits in two specialty areas from the following list: Autism, Learning Disabilities, Emotional Disturbance, Mental Retardation, Gifted and Talented Education, Developmental Disabilities/Children at Risk.

Prospectus Course – Credits: 3

Complete the following course as an independent study supervised by the advisor.

Dissertation – Credits: 12

Plan Degree Requirements

The program of study requires a minimum of 72 credits. Only credits that meet the following criteria may be included on the formal Program of Study:

  • Those not previously used to fulfill requirements for another degree;
  • Those taken while enrolled at an accredited graduate degree-granting institution in a degree-granting program;
  • Those taken as a non-degree seeking student (not to exceed 15 total credits); and
  • Those for which a grade of B or higher was earned.

Doctoral students must earn a grade of B or higher in all core curriculum courses.

Doctoral Students must earn a grade of B or higher in EPY 721 and EPY 722/KIN 751.

Doctoral students are required to spend a minimum of two consecutive semesters (Fall-Spring, Spring-Summer or Summer-Fall) in full-time resident study in the Department of Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education. Full-time resident study is defined as being enrolled in at least nine credits of graduate level course work from an approved Program of Study (six credits if the student is a graduate assistant). In cases where residency includes a semester of course work prior to submission of the Program of Study, the advisor must approve residency. Work during residency is allowed. However, if the student is employed as a graduate assistant, any additional work beyond that performed as an assistant must conform to the rules of the University and Graduate College.

Two-thirds of the total credits included on the formal Program of Study (not including dissertation) must be taken at UNLV. Faculty members of the Department of Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education instructing specialist’s and/ or master’s classes initiate an interaction with doctoral students enrolled in these courses regarding the appropriateness of both the content and performance requirements for doctoral students. Students not admitted to the doctoral program in Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education (or to another doctoral program in the College of Education) may enroll in: ESP 782 - Professional Seminar in Special Education (formerly ESP 760) and two additional Core Curriculum Courses with consent of instructor prior to formal admission.

The Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education Doctoral Colloquium typically is held one Friday each semester. The Doctoral Coordinator coordinates these meetings with the assistance of the special education faculty and doctoral students.

After taking ESP 763O, ESP 782, ESP 783R, and ESP 785 (typically within the first year of the program), students will complete a first year qualifying experience. Students will work with their advisor to write a current perspectives paper in which they will:

  1. Identify their area of scholarly interest,
  2. Analyze the literature in their area of interest,
  3. Discuss current issues and perspectives related to that issue, and
  4. Propose an idea for future research and inquiry related to that topic area; additionally, students will critique an empirical article focused on their issue.

Two weeks prior to the scheduled review date, students will submit the qualifying experience paper and article critique to a faculty committee and will prepare a 10-minute presentation that addresses their issue and future line of inquiry as well as their programmatic and professional goals, including their plan of study. The committee will score the paper and presentation using the following scale: Pass, Pass with provisions, Does not pass. A student scoring “pass with provisions” would be provided a plan of action to support them in addressing any areas of concern noted in the paper or presentation; this plan would be implemented during the year following the successful completion of their qualifying experience. A student scoring “does not pass” would have the opportunity to rewrite the paper and do a second presentation during the subsequent semester (directly following the initial presentation). Students scoring “pass with provisions” or “does not pass” would be placed on probation with the Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education program. If a student scores “does not pass” twice, they will be recommended for separation from the program.

The comprehensive examination is taken during the semester immediately preceding enrollment in ESP 799 Dissertation. The comprehensive examination consists of 16 credits of written examinations with eight credits structured by the student’s major advisor and eight credits structured by the other internal committee members. The examinations are scheduled on two successive Fridays. The student’s advisor determines the specific dates of the examination. The questions on the comprehensive examination address elements of the Core, Research, Leadership Studies, Exceptionality Specialties, and any course work taken for licensure or endorsements. The student’s Doctoral Studies Committee provides general parameters from which questions are selected. “Take-home” examinations, in whole or in part, are not allowed. Students may use college provided technology for word-processing. Grading consists of three categories: Pass, Fail, and Pass with Distinction. Pass with Distinction occurs contingent upon a unanimous vote of the committee excluding the Graduate College representative. Students who fail the comprehensive examination will be placed on probation and must wait 4 months from the date of the failed examination to re-write their exam. However, under no circumstances may the reexamination be later than the semester following the failed examination. Students not passing the comprehensive examination on the re-write will be “excused” from the program.

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the student selects a dissertation committee (i.e., minimum of three faculty members from the Department of Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education and an outside member appointed by the Graduate College) and submits a dissertation proposal to the committee. This proposal includes an introduction, review of the literature, and a discussion of study methods. Two weeks after this proposal is submitted to the dissertation committee, the committee meets with the student to accept or reject the proposal, as well as provide a critique of its relative strengths and weaknesses. Upon acceptance of the student’s dissertation proposal, a recommendation for advancement to candidacy is submitted to the Graduate College.

Upon completion of the full dissertation, a defense is scheduled. Students need to obtain The Guide to Preparing and Submitting a Thesis or Dissertation from the Graduate College web site.

Plan Graduation Requirements

The student must submit and successfully defend their dissertation by the posted deadline. The defense must be advertised and is open to the public.

After the dissertation defense, the student must electronically submit a properly formatted pdf copy of their dissertation to the Graduate College for format check. Once the dissertation format has been approved by the Graduate College, the student will submit the approved electronic version to ProQuest. Deadlines for dissertation defenses, format check submissions, and the final ProQuest submission can be found here.

Students may apply for graduation up to two semesters prior to completing their degree requirements. All required forms must be submitted to the graduate college via the Grad Rebel Gateway.

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