There are two qualifying examinations required in the Special Education doctoral program. The General Fields Exam assesses the student’s breadth of knowledge in the field of special education. The Special Fields Exam assesses the student’s depth of knowledge in their areas of interest. Both examinations examine a student’s capacity to explore, make connections, synthesize, and integrate content in the discipline. Independent Study hours (SPED 595) may NOT be used for purposes of studying for Qualifying Exams.
Each Ph.D. student will take a General Field Qualifying Exam covering the field of special education or the education of individuals with disabilities to determine the student’s readiness to move to the dissertation phase of the program.
Academic Integrity Expectations
The student will sign an assurance form stating they worked on the answers independently (the student is allowed to use written resources to answer their questions but
General Field Qualifying Exam Readers
The advisor, in consultation with the student, will identify at least two additional faculty readers from the list of Graduate College faculty with expertise in the field being examined.
General Field Qualifying Exam Format and Demonstration of Knowledge
The General Field Qualifying Exam is intended to serve as a demonstration of a set of skills that students need to be successful in their work as researchers and scholars within the field of academia. Students will respond to three (3) prompts determined by the advisor in consultation with the student, one (1) of which shall be a review of a published article, an article under review, or a draft of a manuscript. A literature review, metanalysis, or research study is acceptable for this journal review.
The remaining two (2) prompts shall be selected from among a set of six prompts. Students will have three (3) weeks to complete their responses to the selected prompts. If the student wishes to request an alternate timeline, the student must confer with the advisor, who shall determine if an exception is warranted. Per College of Education Rules, readers must be contacted prior to the exam to determine availability. (see: https://education.illinois.edu/student-resources/graduate/coe-graduate-handbook/phd)
Mandatory General Field Qualifying Exam Prompt (Mandatory prompt for all students)
Write a journal article review in the format you would submit as a journal reviewer. The journal review can be of a published article, an article under review, or a draft of a manuscript. A literature review, metanalysis, or research study is acceptable for this journal review. The advisor, in consultation with the student, will determine the article to be reviewed. (evaluates skills in methodology)
The advisor, in consultation with the student, will determine the format of the examination by selecting two of the following qualifying exam prompts.
The General Field Qualifying Exam will occur after the Early Research Project is completed and the results
Procedures for evaluation and procedures should multiple attempts be required for the General Field Qualifying Exam will follow College of Education Rules. (see: https://education.illinois.edu/student-resources/graduate/coe-graduate-handbook/phd)
To pass the examination, the student must receive excellent or satisfactory ratings from all faculty readers. There are three possible ratings for all items of the exam.
Procedures for Multiple Exam Attempts
If the examination is rated "unsatisfactory" by any reader(s), the reader(s) making that evaluation shall communicate the major deficiencies to the student and make a collective decision as to the format and scope of the revised or new examination, if applicable. All faculty readers who rated the first exam "unsatisfactory" will evaluate the revised exam. A satisfactory or excellent rating must be awarded by all readers for the student to pass the revised examination, and should one or more readers judge the second exam unsatisfactory, the readers shall meet to review the student's performance. If extenuating circumstances exist that warrant a third attempt, the advisor may request approval from the department head/chair or designee. Students shall normally be permitted two attempts to pass each of the qualifying examinations.
Expectations: Each student will sign an assurance form stating they worked on the answers independently (the student is allowed to use written resources to answer their questions but is not allowed to use an editor or get feedback from other people). It is expected that students will follow the UIUC code of conduct for academic integrity.
Committee/Readers: The Special Fields Committee members will include the student’s advisor (or co-advisors) and 2 other faculty members selected in collaboration with the advisor.
Timeline: The Special Fields Qualifying Exam (written or portfolio) can be completed after the student has successfully completed the General Fields Qualifying Exam. The advisor and student will determine the type (written or portfolio) and timing of the Special Fields Qualifying Exam.
Demonstration of Knowledge: There are two options for the student to demonstrate their knowledge: written exam and portfolio.
Written exam. A period of up to two months will be provided for the student to complete the written exam. The student may write up to six double-spaced pages to answer each of four questions (not including the reference lists). Committee members will prepare a rubric and suggested reference list for each question to guide their evaluations. Grading will be done at the end of the two-month period with an expectation that grading will be completed within three weeks following the due date. Three committee members will rate each exam independently, and then the committee will come together to discuss and decide if the student passed or failed the overall exam.
Portfolio. The student completes a portfolio of three papers of publishable quality and completes an oral proposal and defense. The three papers should represent the student's specialized field of knowledge/research. There is an authorship requirement for the papers. The student should be the first author on at least one of the papers and the second author on the others. If the student is the third author on a paper, the first author must write a statement describing the contributions of the second and third authors (e.g., were these roles equal, etc.). At least one paper in the portfolio must be a data-based paper with the student as the first author. The advisor is responsible for working with the student to arrange a time for the portfolio proposal and the defense and for completion of the required paperwork.
Two weeks before the proposal meeting, the student should send the committee members a 3-5 page proposal in APA 7th ed. format with a complete reference list. This proposal will include an overview of the papers that the student plans to submit as part of the Special Fields Qualifying Exam, including the authorship and journals that the student will target. On the day of the proposal meeting, the student should meet with committee members and present (a) each of the three papers (i.e., content, potential audience and journal, role in developing the paper); and (b) how the three papers are connected and related to the student’s specialized field of knowledge/research.
Portfolio proposal meeting: The committee will read the proposal and meet with the student to discuss the proposal. Following completion of the portfolio proposal, committee members will independently read the three papers and the synthesis paper. The committee will provide critical feedback on the proposed papers, the synthesis, and the student’s specialized field of knowledge/research.
Portfolio defense meeting: Two weeks prior to the portfolio defense, the student will send their committee members the three completed papers (in publishable or published format) and a 5-7 page synthesis paper in APA 7th ed. format, with a complete reference list. On the day of the meeting, the student will meet with their committee and orally present the three papers. The advisor, in collaboration with the committee members, will complete the evaluation form following the defense meeting. The student is responsible for: (a) preparing a presentation (using presentation software) for this meeting, highlighting each paper included in the portfolio and (b) answering questions from the committee about: the strengths and weaknesses of each paper; the methodology used in the research papers; how the papers tie together; the student’s strengths and limitations as a writer, researcher, and teacher; and the student’s specialized field of knowledge and research topic, including recommended practices, philosophy about the topic area, etc.
Remediation Plan: The student must pass the Special Fields Qualifying Exam to continue in the doctoral program. The student will have one opportunity to retake the Special Fields Qualifying Exam – Written Option. This must be completed in the semester following the original Special Fields Qualifying Exam. The Special Fields Qualifying Exam committee will develop a remediation plan with specific areas the student should review and specific activities the student should engage in prior to re-taking the entire Special Fields Qualifying Exam (four questions). The student is responsible for following the remediation plan with support from their advisor and the Special Fields committee. For the Special Fields Qualifying Exam – Portfolio Option, students must complete all revisions on the three papers within a two-month period following the portfolio oral defense. Committee members will complete the evaluation form following approval of the revisions.