Special Education, Ph.D. – School of Education & Human Development

Special Education, Ph.D.

Teaching & Learning

Special EducationPh.D.

Teaching and Learning Ph.D.
Specialization in Special Education (SPED)

The University of Miami’s Department of Teaching and Learning is pleased to offer a doctoral specialization in special education with a focus on students with high-incidence disabilities. This specialization includes participation in ongoing faculty research and a strong emphasis on the intersection of special education and diversity issues. Doctoral students selecting this area of specialization are expected to develop expertise in a wide variety of methods appropriate to research in special education through coursework, seminars, and research assistantships. Students are encouraged to gain college-level teaching experience, to seek involvement in school and community projects, and to collaborate with graduate students and faculty both within the School of Education and Human Development and across other UM Schools and Colleges.

Our Students’ Career Objectives

  • Tenure track or clinical faculty positions in Schools of Education at universities or colleges, especially Research I universities
  • Teacher educators in higher education institutions:
    • Research positions in educational research organizations
      • State or district program or curriculum specialists
      • Leadership and/or development positions in public non-profits
      • Research and development positions in for-profit educational enterprises


  • In addition to the irreplaceable campus aesthetics, the University of Miami provided me with opportunities that prepared me for the next step in my career. Earning my Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning was a challenging journey that was nurtured by my fabulous peer cohort, generous Department faculty, expert faculty across campus, and an advisor whose knowledge and guidance ensured my success.
    Dr. Chelsea T. Morris
  • The critical and often intersectional lens through which we learned to read, analyze, and conduct research [in the Teaching and Learning Department] broadened my intellectual capacity and allowed me to examine and challenge my own beliefs about teaching and learning. This process, alongside strong mentoring and support from faculty, shaped what I like to call my “transition” from a teacher to a teacher educator.
    Dr. Lindsey A. Chapman
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The SPED faculty combine practical classroom expertise and scholarly attainments. We see these two aspects of our work as a natural and necessary combination: either would be diminished by the absence of the other. Through research, we seek to advance knowledge in our respective fields to inform policy and improve practice. As teachers, scholars, and learners, we engage in collaborative school and community improvement efforts locally, nationally, and internationally.

Mary Beth Calhoon

Associate Professor

305 284 4149

Office: Max Orovitz Building 230 K

Wendy Morrison-Cavendish


305 284 5192

Office: Merrick Building 222-E

Batya Elbaum


305 284 4218

Office: Merrick Building 308 A

Elizabeth Harry


305 284 5363

Office: Merrick Building 222 C
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More Info

The following is a summary of coursework. Please reference the Doctoral Student Handbook and Course Bulletin for specific program of study.

Core Special Education Courses (12 credits)

TAL 753: Cognitive Psychology in Special Education
Learn about different cognitive theorists and discuss various theoretical positions as to their strengths and weaknesses within and across theories.

TAL 756: Research in Special Education
Critical analysis of empirical research studies in selected areas of special education research focusing on research designs, data analysis methods, and interpretation.

TAL 755: Current issues in special education
Current issues and trends in special education from historical, societal, policy, practice and research perspectives.

TAL 752: Seminar in Reading and Learning Disabilities
Open only to advanced graduate students in reading and learning disabilities pursuing specialist or doctoral degree.

TAL 754: Disability and diversity. Critical views:
Examines critical issues in the cultural/historical conceptualization of the field of special education, against the background of cross-cultural views of disabilities.

Coursework in Diversity

TAL 703: Issues and Trends in Multicultural Education
The study and critical examination of the theory and practice of multicultural education. Development of a personal theory of effective education for pluralism.

In addition to TAL 703, students will take at least two graduate-level courses organized around thematic topics involving diversity in its various manifestations. The courses may be taken from different departments (e.g., psychology, sociology, modern languages, law) or may be part of a master's degree program; nonetheless, they should form a coherent whole. The student and advisor shall determine which courses from across the University of Miami campus can be used to meet this requirement. Topics in diversity that are considered acceptable for thematic study include: (a) poverty and social class, (b) gender, (c) race and ethnicity, (d) exceptionality, (e) culture, (f) urban issues, (g) rural issues, (h) emigration, and (i) international issues.

General Teaching and Learning Requirements

TAL 702: The Social and Cultural Foundations of Education
This course is an interdisciplinary seminar reviewing the major literature in the Social and Cultural Foundation of Education. Classic, Modern and Post-Modern texts will be read with an emphasis on the literature written after 1980 (Post-Modern). Emphasis will be placed on the exploration of key policy questions, as well as the analysis of key sociological concepts related to the field such as hegemony, cultural reproduction, social capital and privilege. The course is intended to provide a "baseline" for understanding the field.

TAL 704: Introduction To Learning Theories/ Learning Sciences
This course explores perspectives and research on domain-specific and domain-general learning in and out of schools. It examines various perspectives researchers use to inform their work and how these perspectives provide insight into what it means to learn and know.

TAL 700: Proseminar
Consists of a series of interactive sessions at which faculty, doctoral students, and guest speakers have the opportunity to discuss current topics in education research. Its purpose is to enhance the culture of scholarship and collegiality within the Department and to provide informal guidance to doctoral students on research and career directions in education. All students are required to take the proseminar, which will be offered once per year, for a total of 3 credits (1 credit per seminar).

Research Methods Competencies

TAL 710: Introduction To Research In Education
This course focuses on diverse philosophies and epistemologies of research and the scientific enterprise, and the various methodologies that arise from these to conduct research in education. Students will develop an understanding of and appreciation for complementary yet unique educational research traditions brought to bear on substantive local, national, and international educational issues to be able to participate meaningfully and critically in multiple discourse communities that employ and/or produce educational research.

Research courses offered by Department of Education and Psychological Studies (EPS). Course Bulletin for course descriptions.

  • EPS 553: Introduction to Statistics
  • EPS 650: Meta-analysis
  • EPS 660: Generalized Linear Model (every other year if this new course is approved)
  • EPS 661: Measurement and Psychometric Theory
  • EPS 662: Item Response Theory
  • EPS 670: Introduction to Research Methods
  • EPS 671: General Linear Modeling
  • EPS 672: Applied Multivariate Statistics (every other year)
  • EPS 673: Introduction to Structural Equation Models
  • EPS 674: An Introduction to Multilevel Modeling (every other year)
  • EPS 675: Qualitative Research Methods I 
  • EPS 676: Qualitative Research Methods II
  • EPS 690: Advanced Topics in RME

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The following factors are considered when selecting doctoral students for admission:

  • At a minimum, completion of a bachelor’s degree with an outstanding record from an accredited institution.
  • Acceptable and recent (within 5 years) Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores. The target minimum is a score of 1100 combined on verbal and quantitative (or 302 on new GRE scoring system) and at least a 4.0 on writing.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Graduate Record Examination. TOEFL scores are valid for two years after test date.
  • Professional experience relevant to degree program.
  • Undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.0 (4.0 scale).
  • Graduate grade point average of at least 3.5 (4.0 scale).
  • Three letters of recommendation. At least two of the three letters of recommendation should include specific evaluation of the candidate’s potential to engage in scholarly research required for this program.
  • The written statement of intent (in the UM online application) should describe how the candidate’s specific interests and obtaining a Ph.D. in this area of study fits into his/her career goals.
  • Available student space in the program and someone willing to advise the student. Applicants are encouraged to contact faculty in the Special Education area to inquire about the match between the applicant’s interests and the faculty’s areas of scholarly research.
  • A personal or phone interview may be required. Applicants will be notified as appropriate.
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Does this program prepare students to be research professors?
Yes, this program is designed to prepare candidates to do research in a variety of educational contexts, such as schools. However, our program graduates have taken different kinds of positions that are not research-focused.
When is the application due?
The deadline to submit applications for fall admissions is June 30. However, review of applications will begin in January. Applicants are therefore advised to submit their applications as early as possible.
Where can I find information about assistantships?
This information can be found here.
What are the GPA and GRE scores required to be accepted?
- Acceptable and recent (within 5 years) Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores. The target minimum is a score of 1100 combined on verbal and quantitative (or 302 on new GRE scoring system) and at least a 4.0 on writing
- Undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.0 (4.0 scale) and graduate grade point average of at least 3.5 (4.0 scale)
I’m an international student. Do I need to submit TOEFL scores?
If you are an international student who completed a graduate program in an English-speaking country (e.g. United States, Canada, Australia), you do not need to submit TOEFL scores. If you are new to a graduate program in the U.S., then you need to submit TOEFL scores. The minimum TOEFL score is …
How many hours are required to earn a Ph.D.?
The program requires 60 semester hours of study beyond the undergraduate degree.
Do I need to have earned a Master’s degree prior to entering the program?
A Master’s degree is not required for admission.
How many graduate level semester hours can I transfer from my Master’s degree?
With approval of the Program of Study Committee, a student may transfer a maximum of 24 graduate level semester hours to a Program of Study.
What is a Program of Study and when should it be submitted?
- A Program of Study for the Ph.D. degree in the Department of Teaching and Learning are individualized based on the student’s career goals, previous academic and professional background, and faculty recommendations.
- Students are required to file a Program of Study and a Course Sequence Plan prior to the end of the second semester of study, which are developed in collaboration with a faculty advisor and a supervisory committee.
Do I have to be a full-time student?
All students entering the Ph.D. program are intended to be full-time students.
How do I choose which courses to take?
Courses in the major field of study are selected in consultation with a faculty advisory committee.
Can I take courses in other program areas as part of my doctoral degree?
Yes, this is negotiated with your advisor and supervisory committee. Students create a plan of study that includes program requirements and students’ interests.
How long does it usually take to complete the program?
The time to complete the doctoral program for full-time students may range from 3 to 5 years, with most finish in 4 years. It is almost always much longer for part-time doctoral students.
What are admission decisions based on?
We base our admissions decisions on an applicant’s total application folio; so please be sure to submit everything in a timely manner. We suggest the following:
- Your letters of recommendation should speak directly to your academic potential as a student in a demanding doctoral program who will be expected, over time, to assume increased responsibility for independent learning.
- Your statement of purpose should address how your career aspirations match our goals for program graduates.
- If you have any extraordinary accomplishments that we should know about, please submit them with your applications materials.
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Program Director

Batya Elbaum

Acting Chair and Professor, Department of Teaching and Learning


Room: Max Orovitz Building, 308A