Exceptional Learning Ph.D.

Current Student Information

Procedures & Timeline

Please review the ELPhD Milestone Checklist regarding procedures/timeline.


Below is a list of major student responsibilities. This list is not exhaustive. Please refer to the Exceptional Learning Ph.D. Handbook for a more complete list.

Forming a Committee

The student’s Ph.D. committee includes a minimum of four members. Additional committee members are optional. The committee must include a chair who has been credentialed by the university and three or more members, who must hold either associate or full graduate faculty status at Tennessee Tech. Doctoral students have the right to amend their committees by adding, omitting, or replacing members, during the process of their study and in response to their changing needs.

Filing a Program of Study

In pursuing the ELPhD, students have primary responsibility for knowing and meeting the program requirements. Students are expected to take the initiative in planning and following their Program of Study.

The Program of Study must be turned in early in the program—during the semester the student reaches 15 completed semester hours (usually no later than the third semester after formal admission to the program).

This is developed in collaboration with the total committee. Each committee member must review and sign it before it is submitted to the Chair of Curriculum & Instruction and the Director of Graduate Programs. The committee and the Director of Graduate Programs must approve all changes made to the Program of Study (via Substitution Form or a revised Program of Study form, as is appropriate).

Please note: if course substitutions are made without a Substitution Form, graduation can be delayed. A course must be on the Program of Study in order to be counted toward the ELPhD degree.

Keeping Up With University Policies

In addition to the Exceptional Learning Ph.D. program guidelines, students are required to follow the Tech Student Handbook and the Graduate Catalog.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination (Comp Exam or Comps) are completed during the semester in which the student is enrolled in Research Seminar in Education (EDU 7920). All coursework, excluding Research & Dissertation (EDU 7990), should be completed before enrolling in EDU 7920.

In the first 2–3 weeks of the EDU 7920, the student must contact his or her Chair to discuss exam timing and to select dates for the exam. The Chair will request that each committee member submit a number of exam questions to the Chair. The student will be assigned a location on campus where they will have a minimum of 4 to 8 hours per day over the course of four (4) days (consecutive or nearly consecutive) days in which to complete their comprehensive examination. The student will return each exam response to the Chair, who will send them to the appropriate committee member for evaluation. The Chair may elect to communicate the results of each individual response as they are received, or may choose to communicate the results of all responses at once. If a student passes the comprehensive exam, he or she will enter Ph.D. Candidacy (and is referred to as a Ph.D. candidate). 

Students cannot retake a failed exam (or any failed portion) in the same semester as the original comprehensive exam. The retake comprehensive exam must take place in the following semester. The student may retake the comprehensive examination only once. If the student does not successfully pass the retake comprehensive exam, the result will be dismissal from the ELPhD program.

Coordinating the Dissertation Defense/Notifying Others About the Defense/Submitting Copies of the Dissertation

PhD candidates should work closely with their Chairs to determine an appropriate defense date. PhD candidates should review the Graduate Student Calendar for the semester they intend to graduate and work back from important milestones shared via the calendar. PhD candidates should apply for graduation at the beginning of the semester in which their defense is scheduled to take place. 

A copy of the final dissertation draft must be submitted to all committee members and the Director of Graduate Programs no less than two weeks prior to the defense, though earlier is appreciated.

At the same time, the PhD candidate should notify the Director of the defense day, time, and location. The Dissertation Defense Form is available on the Graduate Studies website. This form should be completed and brought to the dissertation defense. If the PhD candidate passes the defense, the committee signs the paper and it will be routed it to the Chair of Curriculum & Instruction and Director of Graduate Programs.

Upon approval of final revisions, the Certificate of Approval is signed by the committee and submitted to the College of Graduate Studies (a copy should also be sent to the Director of Graduate Programs). An electronic PDF copy of the dissertation is then submitted to the College of Graduate Studies. Bound copies for the Chair and each committee member are courtesies, but strongly encouraged.


General Resources

Plagiarism Training & Test


Orcid ID

College of Graduate Studies


Graduate Calendar

Student Information


Research & Economic Development


Find Funding

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Human Subject Research

CITI Training


APA Style Blog

Purdue Online Writing Lab

Experience Tech For Yourself

Visit us to see what sets us apart.

Schedule Your Visit
College of Education