Skip top navigation
School of Education - George Mason University

The PhD in Education with a specialization in special education (SPED) is individualized, interdisciplinary, and experiential.  Students plan their own programs to meet self-defined goals with the guidance and support of faculty advisors.  SPED courses can be applied to primary or secondary specialization areas.

If you have questions about this specialization, please contact the specialization representative, Sheri Berkeley.

About the Specialization

The Special Education Specialization prepares leaders in research, teacher preparation, and policy related to disability and special education.

What Will You Learn?

The specialization features coursework and applied experiences that enable you to:

  • Become proficient in evaluating and conducting rigorous research in the field of special education
  • Learn how to effectively communicate research findings to a broad array of audiences, including translating research to practice
  • Understand historical and contemporary perspectives in special education leadership, policy, and teacher preparation
  • Acquire and apply specialized knowledge specific to your interests related to disability and the field of special education

How Will You Learn?

Your advisor will guide your doctoral experience by supplementing course work with professional experiences, including:

  • Mentoring in scholarship, including presenting at professional conferences, publishing and reviewing for scholarly journals, and developing grant proposals for funding agencies
  • Internship opportunities at government agencies, such as the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
  • A continuum of supports to develop skills in effective university teaching and student-teacher supervision
  • Service leadership opportunities, including Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE), a wide range of divisions of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and the International Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD)

Where Can This Specialization Take You?

Graduates of this specialization hold professional positions at:

  • Universities across the country (e.g., tenure-line and instructional faculty, professionals at training and technical assistance centers [(T/TAC])
  • Federal and state education agencies (e.g., US Department of Education agencies, state departments of education)
  • Education research organizations (e.g., American Institutes for Research)
  • Major K-12 school districts (e.g., leaders in curriculum, technology, and administration)

Specialization Courses

Our Graduates

Stacie Brady, PhD 2021

  • Dissertation Title: Morphological Forms in the Writing of Middle School Students with Disabilities
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Linda Mason

Rachel Hamberger, PhD 2021

  • Dissertation Title: Parent Coaching in Natural Communication Opportunities Through Bug-in-Ear Technology
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Anya Evmenova

Kelly Liu, PhD 2021

  • Dissertation Title: Vocabulary Instruction for Middle School Students With Learning Disabilities and English Learners With Learning Disabilities: An Observation Study
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Sheri Berkeley

Megan Sims-fujita, PhD 2021

  • Dissertation Title: Factors Influencing College Decision-Making among Students with Disabilities: A Mixed-Methods Study
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Grace Francis & Dr. Jodi Duke

Carlos Lavin, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: Testimonios of Undocumented Latinx Students with Disabilities: Finding a Way Forward
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Grace Francis

Asma Alzahrani, PhD 2019

  • Dissertation Title: Preservice Special Education Teachers' Understanding of Evidence-Based Practices for Teaching Nonverbal or Low Verbal Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Saudi Arabia
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Frederick Brigham

Kevin Good, PhD 2019

  • Dissertation Title: The Pen or the Cursor: A Single-Subject Comparison of a Paper-Based Graphic Organizer and a Computer-Based Graphic Organizer to Support the Persuasive Writing of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders or Mild Autism
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Anya Evmenova

Darren Ritson, PhD 2019

  • Dissertation Title: Game-Based Learning and Science Classrooms: How a Content-Based Video Game Can Support Students with Emotional Behavioral Disabilities in a Public Day High School Earth Science Classroom
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Anya Evmenova

Meghan Betz, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Professional Development with Optional Components for Educators of English Language Learners: A Mixed-Methods Study of Educators' Changes in Knowledge and Experiences
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Sheri Berkeley

Kelly Brady, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Using Web-Based Graphic Organizer Instruction with Embedded Self-Regulated Learning Strategies and Additional Brainstorming Supports to Improve the Planning and Persuasive Writing of Secondary Students with Complex Intellectual Profiles
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Anya Evmenova & Dr. Kelley Regan

Rachel Hammer, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Virtual Manipulatives With Technology-Based Graphic Organizers (VM+TBGO): A Combined Mathematics Intervention to Support Secondary Students With Learning Disabilities to Solve Proportion Word Problems
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kelley Regan

Leigh Ann Kurz, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Literacy Integrated with Kindergarten Science: An Investigation of Impacts of Kindergarten Students Including Those At-risk for Learning Disabilities
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Sheri Berkeley

Nichole MacVittie, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Guided Self-Reflection with Video and Changes in Teacher Instructional Behaviors
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kelley Regan

Shalu Rana, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: The Impact of a Computer-Based Graphic Organizer with Embedded Technology Features on the Personal Narrative Writing of Upper Elementary Students with High-Incidence Disabilities
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Anya Evmenova

Donna Sacco, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Special Educators' Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Instructional Practices for Students Who are Dually Identified as English Learners with Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Sheri Berkeley