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Doctoral Student Manual

First Year Review


Towards the completion of the first year (typically March or April), doctoral students will complete a First Year Review. The purpose of this review is to discuss the student’s progress to date in the doctoral program and make a plan to accomplish all necessary requirements for successful completion of the doctoral program. The student, temporary advisor, permanent advisor, and one additional faculty member participate in the meeting. The Qualifying Exams Committee Chair determines the composition of the First Year Review committee for each student.

The First Year Review should provide the student and committee members with information regarding the student's strengths and potential needs in the doctoral program. On occasion, the committee may determine that the student’s current strengths or interests do not indicate that they should continue their doctoral studies in the Department of Special Education. In this case, the committee may recommend alternative courses of action on the First Year Review Evaluation Form completed at the close of the meeting.


Recommended Outline

Below is a recommended outline of the format for the First Year Review (times are approximate and may vary from student to student):

  • Overview and introductions (5 minutes): The student’s temporary (or permanent) advisor should chair the First Year Review, introduce participants, and review the sequence of activities (e.g., student presents his or her background and goals, student reviews article and addresses questions, etc.).
  • Student background and goals (15 minutes): The student is allowed up to 10 minutes to review his/her background, reasons for pursuing a PhD and employment goals. The student may use his or her vita and the draft doctoral plan to share this information. Following this period, the committee may ask questions for up to 5 minutes.
  • Research article review (30-35 minutes): The student presents a review of the assigned research article for up to 15 minutes. The review should consist of an overview of the purpose, methods, and findings of the study. Additionally, the student will critique the article by sharing his/her opinion on the article’s strengths and weaknesses. Faculty should hold questions until the student completes the review. After the student completes the article presentation, the committee asks the student questions and discusses the article (15-20 minutes). 
  • Student presentation of original paper (25 minutes): The student presents an overview of the purpose and major conclusions of the original paper (10 minutes). Committee members should hold questions until the student completes the overview at which time they will spend approximately 15 minutes discussing and asking questions about the paper.
  • General issues in special education (15 minutes): Committee members and the student discuss general issues in special education. The student should be prepared to discuss his/her basic knowledge in special education in response to committee members’ questions.  The purpose of this discussion is to reflect on the scope and depth
    of the student's knowledge and identify potential needs. The committee also discusses plans for supervision and for special fields qualifying exams.
  • Committee discussion: The student is asked to leave the room while committee members discuss their recommendations as an outcome of the review. The student is asked to return to discuss these recommendations and subsequent events or actions to be taken.  The First Year Review Evaluation Form is completed and signed by the committee members.

Following the review, the doctoral student and permanent advisor should meet to discuss both the committee’s recommendations and how the doctoral plan can be revised to respond to those recommendations. The advisor should provide a copy of the First Year Review Evaluation Form to the student and to the department for placement in the student's permanent file.

Participant Responsibilities

All participants in the First Year Review have specific responsibilities. Each participant’s responsibilities are listed below.

Qualifying Exams Committee Chair

  • Acquire the names of students to be reviewed each year.
  • Select a First Year Review Committee for each student. This committee should be comprised of up to four people: 
    (a)  the student’s temporary advisor, (b) the permanent advisor, if different from the temporary advisor, (c) a randomly selected faculty member, and (d) co-advisors, if applicable. 

Doctoral Student

  • At least two weeks prior to the review, the student will select a permanent advisor and submit the following items to the advisor who will schedule the First Year Review: 

During the review meeting, the student will present a critical analysis of a research article selected by the advisor, including the purpose, methods, findings, strengths, and weaknesses of the study. The student also should be prepared to discuss the purpose and major conclusions of his/her SPED 592 paper. The student will discuss his or her basic knowledge of special education, but should not attempt to study for this component of the review.

Temporary or Permanent Advisor

  • Arrange a meeting time and room with committee members and the student.  A minimum of 1.5 hours should be scheduled.
  • Select a research article for the student to critically analyze.  Distribute this article to the student and members of the committee two weeks prior to the review.
  • Prepare and distribute other copies of materials submitted by the student for the meeting (i.e., the student's original paper from SPED 592, vita, and doctoral plan); one for each committee member and one for the student. The SPED 592 paper is the first draft of a final paper submitted in this class. The SPED 592 instructor sends this document electronically to the permanent advisor who will distribute the paper.
  • Meet with the student to prepare and advise him/her of First Year Review procedures.
  • Complete and sign the First Year Evaluation Form
  • Give a copy of the First Year Review Evaluation Form to the student and place the original in the student’s file.
  • The permanent advisor may assume these responsibilities if mutually agreed upon.

First Year Review Committee

  • Prior to the review meeting, committee members will read the student's original paper and the assigned research article, and review the student's Doc Plan and vita.
  • During the meeting, individually and collectively committee members will reflect on the student's discussion of the original paper, oral critique of the article, Doc Plan, vita, and knowledge of special education as a field of study.
  • At the conclusion of the review meeting, committee members will confer to determine their recommendations for the student’s Doc Plan based on the student’s strengths and needs.
  • The committee and/or the advisor should explain the recommendations and identified strengths to the student. Subsequently, the advisor will summarize the recommendations on the First Year Review Evaluation Form.
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