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Doctoral Student Manual

Introduction and Overview

Mission of the Department 

The Department of Special Education aims to fulfill the mission of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the College of Education as an international leader in educational research; dissemination of knowledge and evidence to support educational theory, practice, and policy; and preparation of practitioners, scholars, and leaders for the enhancement of Illinois, the United States, and the world. The Department is committed to the production and dissemination of new knowledge in the area of special education from infancy to adulthood. Importantly, we maintain a commitment to making education equitable, inclusive, and accessible to all learners. The Department accomplishes this purpose through research projects, undergraduate and graduate programs, and service and public engagement commitments.

Doctoral Program Overview

The doctoral program includes activities related to teaching, research, and service, the foundations for future employment. In this manual, activities are described in terms of program milestones and three broad types of activities. Academic activities include completing an Advisor Agreement Form, coursework, research requirements, early research project, qualifying exams, and the dissertation. Leadership activities include clinical supervision and administration experiences. Professional activities include college teaching, presentations, publications, and membership in professional organizations. To monitor progress, doctoral students are evaluated annually both by the Department and the Graduate College. Program activities and regular progress monitoring will help students develop a skill set to assume leadership positions in the field of special education.

To prepare students for teaching and research, doctoral students enroll in courses that fulfill College of Education and Department of Special Education requirements. Required coursework includes, but is not limited to, research methods, special education foundations courses (i.e., SPED 592, 593, and 510), and seminars. A description of required college research courses and electives can be found at PhD Research Area Requirement. Students funded by a doctoral leadership grant may have additional required courses and should discuss these requirements with their advisor and the Principal Investigator(s) of the grant.

All doctoral students have the opportunity to work with faculty and other doctoral students on research projects. Also, doctoral students will conduct at least two research projects, including an early research project and dissertation. These experiences align with individual research interests, providing a foundation for future scholarship.

Developing skills in college teaching and mentoring are critical. Teaching activities may include assisting faculty or co-teaching undergraduate or graduate courses in online, face-to-face, or blended formats. Additionally, doctoral students typically supervise pre-service teachers in the teacher education program.

Service, another critical component of the doctoral program and future professional positions, includes service to the Department, College, and field of special education. Service activities might include serving on committees, conducting journal reviews, reviewing conference proposals, and other professional activities. Service activities are conducted to support the mission of the Department, College, and more broadly, the field of special education. 

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