Exceptional Learning Ph.D.

Program Description

ELPhD curriculum includes 79 semester credit hours. The curriculum is organized around three (3) areas of knowledge development—core knowledge, research knowledge, and concentration knowledge.

Classes are held in the evening and weekends and are scheduled in a pattern to allow two to three courses to be completed each semester.

A student may elect to earn an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction once 33 semester credit hours of the Program of Study have been completed. A student entering the program with a graduate degree may elect to earn an Ed.S. in Curriculum and Instruction once 30 credit hours of the Program of Study have been completed. For both of these degrees, the required total hours must include completion of either the qualitative or quantitative portion of the program’s research course sequence . 

All courses are 3 semester credit hours unless otherwise noted.

  • Core Courses / 13 credit hours

    Core courses prepare students to address issues related to exceptional learners in all disciplines, traditional and nontraditional learning environments, inclusion, equity, and diversity. These courses include an orientation to the program, theory, foundations for understanding exceptional populations, program planning and evaluation, and technology. 

    • EDU 7000 – Trans-Concentration Seminar (1)
    • EDU 7010 – Theoretical Foundations of Research
    • EDU 7020 – At-Risk Populations: Research, Service, and Delivery
    • EDU 7040 – Program Planning and Proposal Development


    • EDUL 7200 – Equity Literacy             OR
    • EDUL 7400 – Literacies of Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Populations    OR
    • EDUL 7500 – Linguistic Perceptions     OR
    • EDU 7950 – Doctoral Seminar: Special Topics in Education (this option is for Literacy concentration students)

  • Research Courses / 21 credit hours

    The research portion of the program is innovative and grounds students in research methodologies. Students take three quantitative research courses and three qualitative research courses. (Note: qualitative work begins in EDU 7010 – Theoretical Foundations of Research.) Students are also required to take Research Seminar in Education, EDU 7920, in which they develop their dissertation prospectus using the research theory and skills gained through the qualitative and quantitative research classes.

    • EDU 7300 – Research Design
    • EDU 7330 – Qualitative Inquiry in Research
    • EDU 7340 – Data Analysis and Representation in Qualitative Inquiry
    • EDU 7420 – Quantitative Inquiry in Education I
    • EDU 7430 – Quantitative Inquiry in Education II
    • EDU 7920** – Research Seminar in Education

    **The overriding goal of EDU 7920 is for students to develop their dissertation research proposals (called a dissertation prospectus) and present those proposals to their committees for approval. With the exception of dissertation credit, all of the courses in a student’s program of study should be completed prior to enrolling in EDU 7920 (including removing any grade of “I”). Please see the ELPhD Student Handbook for more details.


    Additional research courses (choose 1)

    • EDU 7320 – Research Methods in Behavior Analysis
    • EDU 7350 – Advanced Regression
    • CUED 7803 – Field Experience in Education: Autoethnography
    • EDUP 7410* – Advanced PPE Methods I (survey research)
    *EDUP 7410 can only be taken as a research course by students who are not in the PPE concentration. 
    Students may take a research course from another concentration or a research-based EDU 7950 with the approval of the course instructor, advisor, and Director of Graduate Programs.

  • Guided Electives / 6-7 credit hours

    The guided electives listed below are approved electives for the ELPhD program. Other electives may be proposed by the student and are subject to approval by the advisor and/or the Director.

    • CSED 6000 – Digital Literacy & Computing
    • CSED 6010 – Programming Fundamentals & Computational Thinking for Ed.
    • CSED 6010 – Computer Science Concepts for Teachers
    • CSED 6030 – Computer Science Instructional Methods
    • CUED 6430 – Design Studio: Production of Instructional Materials 
    • CUED 6450 – Immersive Technologies for Teaching & Learning
    • CUED 7010 – Learning Theories
    • CUED 7030 – Rural Schools & Communities
    • CUED 7510 – Instructional Design Foundations
    • CUED 7520 – Teaching & Learning Online
    • CUED 7540 - Applied Instructional Design & Learning Analytics
    • CUED 7803 – Field Experience in Education: Autoethnography
    • EDU 7060 – Issues in Education
    • EDU 7950 – Doctoral Seminar: Special Topics in Education
    • EDUL 7200* – Equity Literacy
    • EDUL 7300* – Multiliteracies
    • EDUL 7400* – Literacies of Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Populations
    • EDUL 7500* – Linguistic Perceptions
    • EDUP 7410** – Advanced PPE Methods I
    • EDUP 7420** – Advanced PPE Methods II
    • ENGL 5521 – History of the English Language
    • ENGL 5561 – American English
    • ENGL 6010 – Teaching Composition
    • FOED 6020 – Perspectives in American Education
    • FOED 7020 – Philosophy & Public Policy 
    • SPED 6010 – Survey of Disability Characteristics, Procedures, & Methods SPED
    • SPED 6120 – Early Childhood SPED Assessment
    • SPED 7110– Family Collaboration
    • SPED 7200 – Teaching Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

    * Electives for students outside the Literacy concentration.

    ** Electives for students outside the PPE concentration.

  • Dissertation / 15 credit hours (minimum)

    EDU 7990* – Research and Dissertation

    The 15 credit hours (minimum) are generally taken in 6 & 9 hour blocks. Please note that you may need additional dissertation hours depending on a number of factors, including speed of IRB approval & data collection & analysis.

Concentration Courses / 23-24 credit hours

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (both strands)

    School-Aged Children and Adult Populations (ABAS)

    • ABAP 7120 – Positive Behavior Support and Families
    • EDU 7320 – Research Methods in Behavior Analysis
    • EDUB 7000 – Conceptual Topics and Principles in Behavior Analysis
    • EDUB 7010 – Topics in Behavior Analysis
    • EDUB 7020 – Behavior Change Procedures and Systems Supports in ABA
    • EDUB 7030 – Assessment in Behavior Analysis
    • EDUB 7050 – ABA Approaches in Developmental Disabilities
    • EDUB 7060 – Ethics in ABA 

    Applied Behavior Analysis (both strands)

    School-Aged Children and Adult Populations (ABAS)

    • ABAP 7120 – Positive Behavior Support and Families
    • EDU 7320 – Research Methods in Behavior Analysis
    • EDUB 7000 – Conceptual Topics and Principles in Behavior Analysis
    • EDUB 7010 – Topics in Behavior Analysis
    • EDUB 7020 – Behavior Change Procedures and Systems Supports in ABA
    • EDUB 7030 – Assessment in Behavior Analysis
    • EDUB 7050 – ABA Approaches in Developmental Disabilities
    • EDUB 7060 – Ethics in ABA 

    Note: If students are interested taking their supervised practicum hours through Tech,  they may enroll in EDUB 7810 – Practicum in Behavior Analysis.

    Young Children & Families (YCF)

    • ABAP 7120 – Positive Behavior Support and Families
    • ABAP 7920 – Topics, Issues, Research in Early Childhood Special Education (2)
    • ECED 7220 – Early Childhood Instruction and Materials
    • EDUC 7400 – Programs and Service Delivery Models
    • EDUC 7450 – Doctoral Seminar: Young Children & Families
    • HEC 6610 – Families: Normative/Catastrophic Issues
    • SPED 6120 – Early Childhood SPED: Evaluation/Assessment/Methods
    • SPED 7110 – Family Collaboration

  • Health Behaviors and Wellness Education (HBWE)

    • EDUH 7000 – Current Issues in Exercise Science, Health, and Human Behavior
    • EDUH 7010 – Pedagogical Theory of Physical Education
    • EDUH 7020 – Advanced Teaching in Exercise Science and Health-Related Fields
    • EDUH 7100 – Biomechanics of Human Movement
    • EDUH 7200 – Foundations of Health Promotion
    • EDUH 7300 – Behavioral Aspects of Physical Activity
    • EDUH 7500 – Health and Human Behavior Research
    • EDUH 7520 – Inquiry in Health Behavior & Wellness Education (1–4)
    • EDUH 7600 – Special Topics in Exercise Science
    • EDUH 7610 – Independent Study in Exercise Science/Health & Human Behavior

    The HBWE concentration offers cutting-edge, hands-on experiential courses along with related pedagogical methods and theory. HBWE research courses supply additional opportunities to research and address discipline-specific concerns. This comprehensive and novel design supplies students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to succeed professionally and lead change in health sciences and wellness disciplines. HBWE students, with the guidance of their advisor, choose 24 credit hours from the courses listed above.

  • Literacy

    • EDUL 7100 – Literacy History, Theory, and Policy                        
    • EDUL 7200 – Equity Literacy                                                          
    • EDUL 7300 – Multiliteracies
    • EDUL 7400 – Literacies of Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Populations  
    • EDUL 7500 – Linguistic Perceptions
    • EDUL 7600 – The Literacy Professional
    • EDUL 7700 – Theory, Methodology, & Trends in Literacy Research
    • EDUL 7900 – Community Literacy

    The Literacy concentration engages students in a continuum of exploration to develop well-rounded knowledge of literacy research, theory, and practice, as well as expand expertise in the student’s choice of topic.

    The concentration’s aim is to move beyond traditional literacy in the classroom to broader spheres of influence—including leadership, policy, theory, curriculum development, and linguistic and cultural literacy realms. Students explore the historical, political, social, and cultural as it relates to literacy. Courses explore the history and theory behind Western teaching of reading and writing, and also examine and critique how U.S. literacy policies are developed and implemented.

    Doctoral students are invited to deconstruct deficit thinking in education to consider a more equitable literacy, to examine multimodal ways of meaning making, to explore linguistic perception and belief systems, and to consider the literacies of diverse peoples and cultures. Students are immersed in a broad spectrum of historical and current literacy research and explore the roles of literacy professionals beyond the classroom, including publication and grant writing.

    Finally, doctoral students in this concentration, as literacy experts, are presented with opportunities to engage with and create in the local and regional community as a literacy professional.

  • Program Planning and Evaluation (PPE)

    • EDUP 7410 – Advanced Program Planning and Evaluation Methods I
    • EDUP 7420 – Advanced Program Planning and Evaluation Methods II
    • EDUP 7810 – Practicum in Planning and Evaluation (18 total; may be broken up into blocks of 3, 6, &/or 9 as appropriate)

    This concentration prepares professionals for leadership roles in program planning and evaluation in various settings. In addition to exposing students to different theories of evaluation, the program equips students with both qualitative and quantitative research/evaluation methods.

    Through practicum experiences and a grounding in PPE theory and methods, students learn to plan, design, and implement programs and evaluations in real world settings. Upon completion, graduates of the program are skilled PPE practitioners who are qualified to teach evaluation/research methods in academic settings, join evaluation/research firms, work in corporate environments, or become independent consultants.

  • STEM Education

    • EDUS 7500 – STEM Education Foundations
    • EDUS 7510 – STEM Curriculum and Assessment
    • EDUS 7540 – STEM Education Pedagogy
    • EDUS 7550 – STEM Education Trends and Issues
    • EDUS 7530 – STEM Education Research
    • EDUS 7560 – STEM Learners and Learning
    • EDUS 7580 – STEM Education Field Study (2)
    • EDUS 7570 – STEM Education Policy and Leadership
    • EDUS 7515 – STEM Education Seminar (1) or
    • EDUS 7520 – STEM Technology Seminar (1)

    The STEM education concentration provides students with the background and experience needed to assume leadership roles in the development, delivery, and assessment of STEM education programs.

    Graduates of our program are skilled at securing federal and state funding for community/outreach/research programs in a competitive environment of increasing emphasis on STEM education and accountability, and have the expertise required (and demanded) for promoting and retaining PreK–16 students in the STEM pipeline.

    The STEM Education faculty are dedicated, active researchers focused on supporting students in achieving their research and career goals. In addition to course projects/opportunities, our PhD students have ample opportunities to engage with STEM learners actively participating in programs coordinated with Tech's Millard Oakley Center for the Teaching and Learning of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Oakley STEM Center). This highly-active, research-driven center provides PhD students with unique opportunities to develop and test their skills in authentic settings while pursuing graduate coursework.

    Graduates in STEM education are highly marketable within academia (Colleges of Arts & Sciences and Education), PreK–12 educational institutions (instructional leaders/coaches/supervisors), informal educational settings (camp/museum/STEM center personnel), and leadership (policy leaders; innovators of change). With continued steady growth in demand for STEM education expertise nationally and abroad, the STEM education concentration is relevant and timely for those seeking careers in this field.

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