Jul 24, 2024  
University Catalog 2017-2018 
University Catalog 2017-2018 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education

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A doctoral program in Special Education, offered jointly by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA), combines the unique resources of the two institutions. The program is designed to prepare graduates for teacher education in special education or other leadership positions in the field. This program offers a focus on disability issues in special education, emphasizing teacher education, theory and pedagogy, and research. Graduates are prepared to assume university faculty positions in which they will conduct teacher education, research, and other scholarly pursuits related to special education and disabilities. This program offers a Ph.D. in special education, thus students are required to obtain both breadth and depth of knowledge in special education and may specialize in specific areas that include but are not limited to: early childhood education, learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, intellectual disability, severe disabilities, physical and health impairments, visual impairments, cultural and linguistic diversity, and transition to adulthood.

The degree requires major work in special education, and breadth work in related areas as well as work in a cognate field outside of education. Advanced courses and research seminars supply technical backgrounds in the specialization in which students plan to do their dissertation. Practicum, field work, and/or internship assignments are planned on an individual basis.

Admission to the Program

To be considered for admission, applicants must meet the following requirements:

Completion of a Master’s degree in Special Education or a related field.

Acceptable minimum score on such examinations as may be specified by the Division of Special Education and Counseling joint doctoral program committee (currently a minimum of 145 verbal reasoning and 145 quantitative reasoning scores on the Graduate Record Exam).

An undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 and a minimum graduate grade point average of 3.5.

The potential to perform research as demonstrated in evidence submitted to the special education joint doctoral program committee.

At least three years’ successful professional experience, such as teaching, with individuals with disabilities (if an exception is made at the time of admission, the requirement must be completed prior to advancement to candidacy).

Three letters of recommendation, preferably two of which should be written by faculty from whom the student has taken graduate work.

Applicants may be asked to participate in an oral interview as part of the screening process. Applicants will be considered for admission by a screening committee consisting of special education faculty from both Cal State LA and UCLA. Students are initially admitted to the Cal State LA campus with conditional acceptance by UCLA. Upon recommendation of the Cal State LA special education joint doctoral program committee, students may make formal application to UCLA and be approved for admission to that campus to complete the program of study.

Planning the Program

Upon admission to the program, students meet with an assigned Cal State LA advisor to plan their program of studies at the Cal State LA campus. At the time of transfer to the UCLA campus, a UCLA advisor is assigned to complete the program plan with UCLA course work. Course work is taken at both campuses. Course requirements include the following areas: depth and breadth in core content, research methods, research practicum, and cognate, or outside field of study. Specific courses in each of the required areas are determined by the candidate and the faculty advisors within approved program guidelines. Students’ individual programs are based on the students’ backgrounds and are designed to assure their competencies in the above areas.

The program is planned to provide a comprehensive understanding of the entire field of special education as well as an emphasis area. The program is designed to develop competence in statistics and research; provide an understanding of research relating to individuals with disabilities, strengthen background through study in a cognate area; and provide electives to complete a balanced program of study. The program requires a minimum number of course and practicum experiences to ensure the candidate’s competencies in the above areas.

Full-Time Requirements

The first year of the program is primarily at Cal State LA . In the second year and beyond, students primarily take classes at UCLA. All doctoral candidates are required to be full-time students and available during the day for a minimum of one year on the UCLA campus. However, candidates are encouraged to be full-time students throughout their entire doctoral program. The exact distribution of time on each campus will depend upon the individual program.

The Program

The program consists of the following requirements: 3 core courses at Cal State LA, 1 higher education teaching practicum at Cal State LA; 5 statistics and research methods courses across both campuses (quantitative and qualitative methods); 5 elective courses (2 at one campus and 3 at the other campus); 3 research practicum courses; 3 cognate courses (outside education),colloquium series at UCLA; research apprentice course with UCLA faculty advisor.

Core Courses (Required)

Cal State LA

EDSP 6000 - Seminar: Understanding and Using Research to Answer Questions about Diverse Urban Schools (3)  
EDSP 6040 - Disability, Race, Language, and Gender: Educational Equity, School Policy, and the Law (3)  
EDSP 6100 - Research, Issues, and Practices in College and University Teaching (3)  

Teaching Practicum (Required)

Cal State LA

EDSP 6110 - Seminar/Practicum:Teacher Preparation (3)  
Statistics and Research Methods (5 required) (quantitative and qualitative on either campus)

Cal State LA

COUN 6010 - Research Methods in Single Subject Design (3)  
EDFN 6411 - Using Qualitative Research to Explore Teaching and Learning for Diverse Urban Settings (4)  


Many courses fulfill this requirement. Courses to be selected with Cal State LA and UCLA advisors.

Electives (5 required, 3 courses at one campus and 2 courses at the other campus)

Cal State LA

EDSP 6050 - Disability in Society (3)  
EDSP 6400 - Research on Exceptional Students from Diverse Cultural and Linguistic Backgrounds (3)  
EDSP 6600 - Seminar: Research on Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders (3)  
EDSP 6800 - Doctoral Seminar: Moderate to Severe and Low-Incidence Disabilities Ages Birth-21 (3)  
EDSP 6980 - Doctoral Directed Study in Special Education (1-5)  

UCLA - Many courses fulfill this requirement.

Visit UCLA Catalog at http://www.registrar.ucla.edu/Archives/General-Catalog-Archive/UCLA-General-Catalog for current requirements.
Courses to be selected with Cal State LA and UCLA advisors.

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations

Doctoral Screening Examination

The doctoral screening exam consists of a successfully written second year empirical research project proposal and oral defense of that proposal. The exam assesses a student’s ability to clearly present research, justify its significance, and explain the methods. Upon approval of the oral defense of the proposal by a three-member faculty committee, a student then conducts the research project. Students who fail the oral defense will be required to revise their proposal under the supervision of their faculty advisor and screening project committee. Once these revisions are approved students may begin their research project.

Doctoral Written Qualifying Examination

When the candidate has completed (or enrolled in the last of) the course work recommended by the student’s advisors, application is made for the written qualifying examination. The examination consists of one high quality integrative review paper on a topic chosen by the student with the advice of faculty. The examination is scored by faculty at both campuses and follows the guidelines set forth by the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Students who fail this examination will be given a second opportunity to take the examination and can petition for a third opportunity.

Doctoral Oral Qualifying Examination (Preliminary Orals)

After the candidate has completed the written qualifying examinations successfully, the candidate will select a dissertation chair who will assist in the selection of the dissertation committee members. This committee will be composed of at least five faculty members, two faculty members from the UCLA Department of Education, two from the Cal State LA Division of Special Education and Counseling, and one UCLA member from the student’s cognate area outside Education. Additional committee members may be appointed at the student’s or advisor’s request. This committee will conduct an oral examination covering topics from special education and other disciplines related to the candidate’s research proposal, to determine the candidate’s qualifications to conduct meaningful research in the field. This oral examination is open only to the committee and the student.

Advancement to Candidacy

Candidates who have passed both written qualifying and preliminary oral examinations file an application for advancement to candidacy to UCLA and submit the UCLA application to Cal State LA. Thereafter, enrollment is required each semester in such course or courses as the student’s committee chair may direct, until the dissertation is completed.

Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation, required of every candidate for the Ph.D. degree, embodies the results of the candidate’s independent investigation. It must contribute to the body of knowledge in the field and draw upon interrelations between education and the cognate discipline. The dissertation must be approved by the candidate’s assigned doctoral committee and, after approval, the dissertation must be submitted to both Cal State LA and UCLA.

Final Oral Examination

Candidates must pass a final oral examination conducted by the assigned joint doctoral committee stressing the interrelation of the dissertation and existing knowledge in education. The major emphasis of this examination is on defense of the dissertation. The final oral examination is open to faculty, students, and other interested researchers at the discretion of the dissertation chairperson and the student.


A faculty member on each campus is designated as doctoral advisor for all students intending to apply for admission to the Joint Doctoral Program. As soon as the decision is made to seek admission, applicants should consult with the joint doctoral program coordinator at the Cal State LA campus regarding application deadlines and formal procedures required for consideration for admission to the program.

The addresses and telephone numbers for the doctoral advisors are as follows:


California State University, Los Angeles
Division of Special Education and Counseling
King Hall C1064

5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, California 90032-8144
(323) 343-4400



University of California, Los Angeles
Graduate School of Education and Information Studies

Human Development and Psychology1009 Moore Hall
Los Angeles, California 90095-1521

(310) 206-3264



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