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University of Pittsburgh    
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Apr 15, 2024
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Instruction and Learning - Education of Mental and Physical Disabilities Concentration, PhD

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The University of Pittsburgh School of Education’s Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs prepare students to be nationally competitive and highly qualified for research careers in both academic and non-academic institutions. Our full-time, research-intensive PhDs produce scholars who demonstrate excellent writing and research skills, independent scholarship and productivity, and proficiency in teaching. Under the guidance of our distinguished graduate faculty, students will have the opportunity to produce peer-reviewed publications, present at professional conferences, and collaborate on grant-writing and review, positioning them to excel in their careers as researchers and faculty. Because the PhDs are full-time, students can be fully immersed in their coursework and research in preparation for an impactful scholarly career.


Special Education - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The goal of the Special Education PhD degree is the preparation of leadership personnel to assume academic faculty positions at the university level. The focus of preparation for the PhD program is on teaching graduate and undergraduate courses, mentoring graduate students, developing a research agenda that will result in funded and published research and translating research outcomes for the improvement of educational and related service programs for children and youth with disabilities. PhD candidates are mentored by a faculty adviser who shares their research interests and are supported by graduate faculty in Special Education. Students may focus their studies in one or more of the following areas: applied behavior analysis, autism, emotional and behavior disorders, learning disabilities, or severe disabilities. The PhD program is writing and research-intensive and PhD candidates will have multiple opportunities to learn and participate in the review of research literature, the preparation and submission of research grant proposals, the design and implementation of research studies, and the preparation and dissemination of research reports. A limited amount of financial assistance in the form of doctoral fellowships is available for full time students on a competitive basis.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

The requirements presented in this section are school-wide requirements that have been established in addition to the University-wide requirements detailed under general academic regulations. Students should review the general academic regulations section in addition to the specific school information detailed below.

Doctoral Programs

Doctor of Education (EdD) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree programs are offered by the School of Education to provide advanced graduate study and professional specialization in education. Each recipient must show evidence of superior scholarship, mastery of a special field of knowledge, and ability to do significant and relevant research. In doctoral study in the School of Education, a distinction is made between the preparation of education professionals resulting in the EdD degree and the preparation of education professionals resulting in the PhD degree. While EdD and PhD degrees produce experts in critical inquiry, the School of Education distinguishes the degrees according to, among other factors, the focus of the area of inquiry, the type of knowledge advanced, and the career path chosen by the individual student.

PhD research focuses on the study of basic problems arising primarily from behavioral and social science theory with the goal of advancing such theory and knowledge. Individuals pursuing this degree often seek academic positions in universities or research institutes. EdD research focuses on the study of applied, practical problems with the goal of contributing to solutions. Careers for these individuals often center on professional positions as administrators, curriculum developers, or specialists in schools and clinical settings.

Credit Requirements

Doctoral degrees require a minimum of 90 credits in a degree program beyond the baccalaureate, distributed as follows: a minimum of 72 course credits (including transfer credits) and a minimum of 18 dissertation credits. Doctoral-level courses are numbered in the 3000 series, but courses numbered in the 2000 series may also be appropriate for doctoral study. Generally, courses numbered below 2000 do not meet the minimum requirements for doctoral study. Exceptions require the approval of the program or department. No lower-level undergraduate course (numbered 0001-0999) may be applied toward a doctoral degree.

Grade Point Average/Academic Probation

All students enrolled in doctoral degree programs are required to maintain a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.300. The cumulative GPA is based on all course work taken after enrollment in the appropriate doctoral program. A student is automatically placed on academic probation when the cumulative GPA after 9 credits or more, exclusive of transfer credits, falls below 3.300. Although the credits allowed for acceptable work completed elsewhere by students enrolled in the School of Education count toward the total number of credits required for the graduate degree, the grades earned in such courses are not included in GPA computations.

While on probation students are limited to registering only for courses in which a letter grade is given.  To be removed from probation status, a student must achieve a 3.500 GPA in 6 credits or more.  A student can only be placed on academic probation status once during their program of study.  Students placed on academic probation status will receive notification in the form of a letter from the School of Education, and they will be recommended to seek guidance from their academic advisor.

Ordinarily, students are required to terminate graduate study after two terms on probation.  A student who does not meet the GPA or credit requirements will be dismissed from the School of Education, unless serious extenuating circumstances exist. The request for continuation must include a recommendation made by the Department Chair (or designated faculty member) and the academic advisor, with the recommendation approved by the Dean of the school.

Leave of Absence

Under special conditions, graduate students may be granted one leave of absence. A maximum leave of two years may be granted to doctoral students. The length and rationale for the leave of absence must be stated in advance, recommended to the dean by the department, and approved by the dean. If approved, the time of the leave shall not count against the total time allowed for the degree being sought by the student. Readmission following an approved leave of absence is a formality.

Academic Integrity Policy

Students have the right to be treated by faculty in a fair and conscientious manner in accordance with the ethical standards generally recognized within the academic community (as well as those recognized within the profession). Students have the responsibility to be honest and to conduct themselves in an ethical manner while pursuing academic studies. Should a student be accused of a breach of academic integrity or have questions regarding faculty responsibilities, procedural safeguards including provisions of due process have been designed to protect student rights. These general procedures may be found in Guidelines on Academic Integrity: Student and Faculty Obligations and Hearing Procedures at The School of Education has its own academic integrity policies, posted on the School of Education website.  Students are encouraged to review these school-specific guidelines as well.

Education of Mental and Physical Disabilities Requirements

(Area of Concentration)

The major goal of the Special Education PhD and Ed.D degrees is the preparation of leadership personnel. Graduates must have leadership skills to identify the significant issues of the day and the ability to make decisions about the most effective use of new technologies and information to serve the nation’s disabled population. They will also become researchers and scholars committed to furthering the knowledge and empirical base needed for enhancement of special education practice and of the training of special education personnel. Graduates will serve infants, children, youth, and adults with disabilities through roles as teacher educators, researchers, administrators, consultants, and supervisors.

Students complete either a PhD or Ed.D in Special Education with a particular emphasis in learning disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing, vision studies, orientation and mobility, or early intervention. As they have in the past, it is expected that graduates of this program will have a significant impact on the quality of educational opportunities for persons with disabilities by providing leadership for local education agencies, state educational agencies, private foundations and agencies, colleges, and universities.

This option is available for students with at least three years experience in teaching children with Mental and Physical Disabilities. (i.e., learning disabilities, mental retardation, etc.). Students may choose between the Ph.D. or Ed.D. Both programs require a minimum of 90 credits of course work including dissertation research. The Ph.D. requires a one year research residency on campus.

A redesigned Doctor of Education degree starts Summer 2014 while the redesigned Doctor of Philosophy Degree starts Fall 2014, for additional degree information, refer to the introductory school section on Doctoral Degrees


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