Education, Ph.D.
(Applied Developmental Sciences and Special Education)

Program Description

Applied Developmental Sciences and Special Education (ADSSE)

The mission of Applied Developmental Science and Special Education(ADSSE) program area is to train doctoral students in the interdisciplinary, theoretical foundations of Developmental Science and Special Education. These foundations will provide young scholars with the tools to advance knowledge about human development from early childhood through adolescence, with a particular focus on studying families and children/students at risk for learning and behavioral challenges. Instruction and programs in schools and in families are also a major focus in the study of young children and youth with disabilities. This mission is accomplished by offering research perspectives in (a) the developmental trajectories of families and children/students from diverse sociocultural backgrounds in the multiple contexts in which they live, including school, home, neighborhoods, and communities as well as a grounding in (b) evidence-based models of prevention that seek to provide equitable opportunities for learning and successful adjustment for all children by emphasizing education and instruction directed towards individual differences among learners.

We have a strong program dedicated to developing a new generation of interdisciplinary scholars that have acquired a rigorous research knowledge base with expertise in a quantitative, mixed method, and single case methodology. Graduates will work closely with their advisor and committee members to develop the skills and experiences necessary to work as leaders in a variety of research settings, including institutions of higher education as well as governmental entities at the state or federal level as well as private research firms. Throughout the doctoral experience, students will engage in research activities, grant writing, and the dissemination of their research and prevention efforts, such as presenting their research at local, state, and national conferences, and teaching college level classes.

In addition to School of Education core classes, all students will take (a) two core classes that introduce them to: the basic theoretical perspectives in Developmental Science and Special Education, writing literature reviews, helping to prepare grant applications, critiquing research studies, and preparing a first-authored conference presentation. Also included in these core classes will be socialization into professional organizations, leadership opportunities, and the actual writing of journal articles; (b) courses in a rigorous methodological core; and (c) specialty seminars in the students areas of interest in the ADSSE program that provide claims of knowledge in particular concentration areas in Applied Developmental Sciences or Special Education. Students will take a core set of courses and electives within each of these three areas of concentration areas. Students will also be able to select an emphasis within their core as follows:

Applied Developmental Sciences

Emphasis areas:

  • Inclusive Early Childhood Development
  • Middle Childhood/Adolescence
  • Early Literacy

Special Education

Emphasis areas:

  • Early Childhood Interventions
  • School Age Programs
  • Autism
  • Struggling Readers and Writers


Applications for the Fall 2019 Admission Term are due
February 12, 2019

A bachelor’s degree is required for application to the Ph.D in Education program. Applicants with Master’s degrees are also encouraged to apply.

For detailed application instructions please visit our Admissions page.