Program Code: SPEDCORE
Master of Science
The graduate department in Special Education and Applied Disabilites Studies is designed to afford providers of educational and behavioral services opportunities to (a) refine their critical thinking and analytical skills to the highest level of proficiency necessary to attain excellence in the field, and (b) develop applied research competencies necessary to create innovations in education and behavioral services that benefit individuals with disabilities or unique learning needs. Graduate students are encouraged to become scientist-practitioners, in which they refine and redefine the links between teaching and research, theory and researchbased practice. Following a scientist-practitioner model, graduates from our program will have the unique ability to advance both the science and art involved in a meaningful careers in services for individuals with disabilities.
The graduate department in Special Education provides the candidate with the experiences in field-centered activities, strongly supported by the principles of evidence-based practices, effective and appropriate education, normalization, critical pedagogy, and tolerance of individual differences. Candidates are prepared to assess learning and behavioral strengths and deficits in order to help individuals grow and achieve their goals within the contexts of special education and behavioral service settings.
Through this program, students may pursue teacher certification, Pennsylvania Behavior Specialist Licensure, and Autism Spectrum Disorder Endorsement from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis is designed to meet the educational requirements for certification by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. Additionally, students may complete concentrations in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Applied Disability Service in Higher Education or English Language Learners. The ASD concentration allows students to receive an endorsement on their Pennsylvania Department of Education certificates.
The mission of the graduate department in Special Education is to provide current and future special education practitioners with the skills and experiences necessary to implement evidence-based practices in the helping professions of teaching, behavior analysis, and disability services. A Mercyhurst, the graduate of Special Education is prepared to create learning opportunities that allow individuals with educational and behavioral challenges to realize opportunities for self-determination and independence. Our graduates are encouraged to follow a scientist-practitioner model, serving the field in three evidence-driven ways: to incorporate research in their practice as teachers and clinicians; to produce applied research or datadriven strategies in both their graduate studies and their professional careers; and to disseminate their clinical or research endeavors through the presentation of resulting data to others in the field.
Students seeking admission to the graduate program in Special Education at Mercyhurst must meet the following minimum requirements and submit the following items:
The graduate program in Special Education operates on a semester schedule. Fall and spring semesters are each 16 weeks long. Summer session courses and advanced institutes are also offered to meet the needs of school personnel in the area. On-campus courses are offered in the evening, meeting once or twice per week. Several courses are available online. New students are admitted to the program each semester.
Professional Education Portfolio (PEP)
Students currently employed in the field of special education and disabilities services may earn Credit for Life Experience by completing a Professional Education Portfolio (PEP) The PEP documents the students’ ability to interpret learning outcomes and how they are assessed, consider methods in which the learning outcomes can be addressed (i.e., outside the traditional university course), and critically examine their own prior professional learning opportunities. Specifically, the goal is to produce ethical leaders in the field of education and disability studies who are cognizant of how (a) professional standards and organization policy impact the student’s right to effective programming, (b) educational goals, curriculum assessments, and measurable objectives, drive the implementation of evidence-based practices, and (c) laws, legislation, and the local community impact effective educational practices. The PEP requires the student to document evidence across two domains. Once the PEP has sufficiently met course outcomes as outlined in EDSP 536 and EDSP 623, a maximum of six (6) credits for life experience will be earned by the student
Upon completion of the graduate program in Special Education, graduates will be able to:
All students will complete a graduate thesis. The Thesis is the culminating scholarly work, requiring the application, synthesis, and critical evaluation of your graduate studies. The thesis may be developed as a result of experiences gained while involved in internships, assistantships, clinicals, and/or independent studies as approved by the graduate advisor. The outcome of the thesis usually result in a publishable manuscript or a fundable project. Additionally, a three-credit seminar, clinical, or independent study may be taken in conjunction with thesis, allowing for additional time devoted to research and writing.
Effective December 31, 2014, employees who have direct contact with children will be required to obtain new clearances every 36 months.
In addition to being a required Special Education graduate course for all students, this course meets the requirements of the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) graduate certificate program, and serves as the third course in this sequence of instruction. It is also one of the three required courses in the Autism concentration/endorsement program. Instruction and related activities will cover advanced concepts related to behavioral theory, and behavioral assessment and intervention techniques related to teaching, learning, and management of aberrant behaviors within the group-oriented context of the classroom. Of particular interest will be the application of basic principles of operant conditioning to group-oriented behavioral contingencies, the development of systems support concepts to ensure that such interventions may actually be carried out, the incorporation of solid behavioral principles in teaching practices and curriculum design, strategies to develop self-management, generalization procedures, strategies to promote independence within classroom routines, and differential schedules of reinforcement. Students will have the opportunity to review behavioral assessment techniques and applications, reinforcer assessment, singlesubject research design, and data analysis. Above all, this course will focus primarily on practical applications of ABA within a group/systems context.
This graduate course will examine educational research, with emphasis placed on understanding, conceptualizing, and critically analyzing single case experimental design. Special emphasis will be placed on the application, analysis, strategies, tactics, of single case research (within, between, and combined series designs) related to educational and clinical practices, and social issues. In addition, students will learn to critically evaluate published single case research paying special attention to design, methods, visual analysis, and experimental control.
The ultimate goal of behavior analysts and classroom teachers is essentially the same; alter the environment to improve socially relevant behavior to a meaningful degree. As the professional practices available to achieve this goal are seemingly limitless, one must use a set of professional values or ethics to determine which practices are acceptable and which are not. Furthermore, educators are often presented with situations that require decisions to be made based on social values, ethical principles, and/or legal grounds. This course is designed to expose students to the legal and ethical issues that influence our professional practice. Students who successfully complete th is course will gain experience with the laws and ethics that (a)influence those practice, and (b) effect marginalized students.
The Graduate Thesis is meant to establish a “permanent intellectual dis-quiet,”asking you to act and re-act, search and re-search (Freire, 1985, p.3). TheThesis is an applied, research-driven manuscript that (a) best meets the futureeducational needs of the graduate student upon completion of the GraduateProgram, and (b) serves as a graduate capstone documenting the link betweentheory/research and practice/application. The Thesis is the culminating scholarlywork, requiring the application, synthesis, and critical evaluation of yourgraduate studies. The graduate thesis must be original, research-based work.
This 210-contact hour clinical internship is designed to establish, and ultimately solidify a link between research-application/scientist-practitioner within the field of special education, with the focus on student engagement. This internship requires graduate students to (a) plan, organize, and manage the educational environment, (b) present, teach, and engage students, (c) develop educational leadership capacity, and (d) develop a critical philosophy of learning.
This 6-week (3 credit) or 12-week (6 credit) capstone experience is designed toprepare the pre-service teacher to assume full teaching responsibilities in a SpecialEducation (3 credit) or Special Education and Early Elementary (6-credit) classroom.
Under the current graduate program, any candidate seeking certification in any content area must complete the prescribed course of study, completion of student teaching, successful completion of PDE’s required certification exams, and application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
4+1 in Special Education
The 4+1 program affords the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in only five years by taking graduate-level courses during your junior and senior years. Undergraduate majors complete EDSP 536 Professional, Legal and Ethical Practices (3 credits) in the spring semester of their junior year, and EDSP 501 Behavior Management (3 credits) in the fall semester of their senior year. After graduating with their bachelor’s degrees, students will complete their remaining 24-27 credits in their fifth and final year. This may include four graduate courses in the fall and four graduate courses in the spring semester.
In addition to the above required coursework, students may select a concentration, and complete the associated courses and electives. If no specific concentration is chosen, students must complete a minimum of 5 additional general elective courses.