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Master's in Special Education Course Descriptions

 

The online Master of Science in Special Education from Saint Joseph’s University is built on the popular Response to Intervention (RTI) program, a research-based foundation of theoretical and practical strategies to help you deliver the best possible education to children facing a number of different special needs. Every Saint Joseph’s University student will complete nine core Special Education courses before choosing between two career-oriented specializations. Most students will complete the entire program in about two years.

Core Courses:
SPE 600 Current Issues in Special Education: Theoretical Practice and Procedures*
SPE 602 Diagnostic Assessment and Progress Monitoring*
SPE 603 Theory and Instructional Practice: Students with High Incidence Disabilities*
SPE 604 Research-based Models and Procedures: Literacy, Written and Oral Language, and Reading in the Content Areas*
SPE 605 Research-based Models and Procedures: Mathematics and Science Procedures*
SPE 606 Theory and Instructional Practice: Students with Emotional/Social and Behavioral Disorders
SPE 607 Theory and Instructional Practice: Students with Low Incidence Disabilities*
SPE 608 Families, Schools, and Communities: Communication and Collaboration*
SPE 612 Inclusive Classroom Practices*

SPE 638 Inclusive Classroom Practices and Student/Intern Teaching PreK-8* OR
SPE 639 Inclusive Classroom Practices and Student/Intern Teaching 7-12*

Advanced Special Education Elective Courses:
SPE 630 Design & Technologies for Differentiated Instruction
SPE 700 School Law and Policy: Special Education Issues
SPE 701 Cognitive Processes: Research-based Brain Studies for the Educator
SPE 702 Culturally Responsive Teaching Structured Language Instruction

WILSON Reading System® Courses:
SPE 710 Introductory Workshop: Introduction to Multisensory Structured Language Instruction
SPE 711 Basic Word Study 1-3: Intensive Instruction for the Non-Responsive Reader
SPE 712 Basic Word Study 4-6: Intensive Instruction for the Non-Responsive Reader
SPE 713 Wilson Certification Course Clinical: Intensive Instruction for the Non-Responsive Reader (Practicum)

Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist Endorsement Courses:
SPE 720 Introduction to ASD: Overview of Causality, Diagnosis and Advocacy
SPE 721 Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Socialization Strategies
SPE 722 Evidenced-Based Practices: Assessment, Interventions, and Instructional Methodologies
SPE 723 Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis: Behavior Management Approaches

Core Courses (36 credits)

SPE 600 Current Issues in Special Education: Theoretical Practice and Procedures* (3 credits)
This course is a critical study of the contemporary and controversial issues within the field of special education. Consideration will be given to the philosophical, psychological, and sociological basis of teacher education, including an analytical review of research-based curricula, programmatic innovations, policy issues and their effects, and ethical practices. Discussions will focus on evidence-based core concepts that contribute to effective program planning; investigation of cognitive, academic, behavioral, and psycho-social solutions and implications for those working with exceptional students; and future implications for the advancement of special education diagnostic and instructional services.

SPE 602 Diagnostic Assessment and Progress Monitoring* (3 credits)
This course will provide an in-depth presentation of the complex issue of assessment, including an examination of evaluation procedures, from pre-referral intervention, eligibility/placement/ program decision-making to progress monitoring of scientifically-based instructional interventions based on Response to Intervention (RTI). Focus will include academic, affective, work-study skill, adaptive functioning, fine motor, and environmental measures. Content coverage will consist of an overview of assessment models including traditional, informal, dynamic, performance, curriculum-based, and alternative techniques. Additional course topics will address legislation, regulations, topical issues, emerging evaluation trends, test modifications/accommodations, parent involvement and assessment/progress reporting.

SPE 603 Theory and Instructional Practice: Students with High Incidence Disabilities* (3 credits)
This course is a comprehensive study of theoretical issues and research-based diagnosis, instructional planning and programmatic organization of instruction for children with learning problems. Content will cover curriculum design, development of programs of differential instruction involving evidence-based interventions that meet students' needs based on formative assessment, developmental and educational information; integrated learning experiences; specialized adaptations and resources; practices and procedures validated for specific characteristics of learners and settings; prevention and intervention strategies from multiple theoretical approaches for individuals at-risk for academic or behavioral failure; systematic implementation of instructional variables; and systems management necessary for effective instruction of children with disabilities. Focus will also be given to the development and implementation of differentiated curriculum and curricular enhancements, and concepts and teaching practices related to the development and implementation of effective instructional programs for students with high incidence disabilities.

SPE 604 Research-based Models and Procedures: Literacy, Written and Oral Language, and Reading in the Content Areas* (3 credits)
This course will focus on the development of competency in the implementation of explicit and systematic evidence-based instructional strategies designed to teach accuracy, fluency, comprehension, and monitoring strategies in literacy and content area reading to students with disabilities, including exceptional children in regular classroom, with emphasis on applying findings from research in reading to classroom practices, including children who are linguistically and culturally diverse. Content will include diagnostic-prescriptive techniques for remediation of reading and written language and associated learning disabilities.

SPE 605 Research-based Models and Procedures: Mathematics and Science Procedures* (3 credits)
This course will focus on the development of competency in the implementation of explicit and systematic evidence-based instructional strategies designed to teach mathematics and content area subjects, including science and social studies. A study of theory and practice of effective teaching methodologies, combined with principles of differentiated instruction. Attention will be on teaching models and methods supported by research and emphasis will be placed on development of effective teaching procedures.

SPE 606 Theory and Instructional Practice: Students with Emotional/Social and Behavioral Disorders (3 credits)
This course covers personal, social, and emotional disorders in an educational setting, including methods of identification, assessment, and instructional planning; develops skills in effective classroom management and creating classroom climate conducive to learning and growth. It also provides comprehensive coverage of a variety of models of disciplines and aids students in building systems and conceptual models of total discipline, emphasizing activities promoting pupil motivation and classroom management and organization of the environment, instruction, behavior and record keeping.

SPE 607 Theory and Instructional Practice: Students with Low Incidence Disabilities* (3 credits)
This course addresses the definitions, characteristics, assessment and specific techniques for students needing adaptive and functional curriculum. Characteristics are addressed in relation to why and how specialized instruction can meet the learning and developmental needs of these individuals, specifically in the areas of instruction, assistive learning, and language-communication. This will include research validated instructional strategies, adaptive and assistive technologies including, augmentative communication systems, and communication and social interaction alternatives for non-speaking individuals. In addition, the course reviews behaviorally-based educational models for students with autism and other moderate and severe disabilities, and presents methods aimed at enhancing functional skill development in major life domains, with emphasis on community-based training and self-determination.

SPE 608 Families, Schools, and Communities: Communication and Collaboration* (3 credits)
This course focuses on the home-school partnerships, issues of family and professional collaboration and diversity, and methods of promoting adult communication and management strategies. It applies the knowledge of cultural and linguistic diversity and the significance of socio-cultural and political contexts as they relate to the family, culture and society. It identifies the members of teams designed to support and optimize children's educational needs and social-emotional development and the network of community services and resources available to individuals, families and groups affected by social, environmental, health and related problems.

SPE 612 Inclusive Classroom Practices*
This course is a comprehensive study of theoretical issues and research-based diagnosis, instructional planning, and programmatic organization of instruction for children with disabilities in inclusive environments. Content will cover curriculum design, development of programs of differential instruction involving evidence-based interventions that meet students' needs based on formative assessment, developmental and educational information; integrated learning experiences; specialized adaptations and resources; practices and procedures validated for specific characteristics of learners and settings; prevention and intervention strategies from multiple theoretical approaches for individuals at-risk for academic or behavioral failure; systematic implementation of instructional variables; systems management necessary for effective instruction of children with disabilities; and the underlying theories, issues and methods for managing classroom environments.

SPE 638 Inclusive Classroom Practice and Student/Intern Teaching PreK-8*
The focus of this course is on the developing of skills dealing with effective inclusive classroom management and creating classroom climate conducive to student achievement. It provides comprehensive coverage of a variety of discipline models to aid candidates in building systems and conceptual models of total discipline based on their underlying theories; emphasizes activities promoting positive behavioral supports; increases pupil motivation; applies methods for establishing cooperative classroom routines, procedures, and practices; organizes the environment, including school wide, classroom, and individual supports; measures and reports progress.

This course of study will focus on the unique needs of students in grades K-8 as well as the development of proactive approaches to classroom and school environments. This will enable teachers to increase the amount of academic learning time in which to address the needs of all students in inclusive classrooms to increase achievement. In addition, the course study will include a focus on understanding how behaviors are influenced by pedagogical practices.

Student Teaching
This course includes a student teaching component. The Pennsylvania Department of Education requires a Special Education student teaching experience for those individuals who currently hold a general education teaching certificate and are seeking a Special Education certification. Students will spend a minimum of 140 hours in a supervised teaching situation. In order to be prepared for this experience, students need to be aware of the following before registering for the course:

  • You are expected to complete a student teaching application.
  • You will locate potential student teaching sites in your local area.
  • You will seek permission from the school administration to allow the 4-week student teaching experience.
  • The SJU Student Teaching Liaison will locate a school administrator to serve as your student teacher supervisor.
  • If you are currently teaching, you may be permitted to student teach at your own school with permission of the SJU course instructor and the school administration.
  • The experience requires 140 hours (equal to four 35-hour weeks) of hands-on teaching with students who have IEPs. At least 10% of the class should be students with IEPs.
  • It is suggested that the 140 hours occur at the end of the semester, but possible arrangements can be made to complete the hours at different times during the semester.
  • Small group instruction is permitted as long as the same small group is provided consistent attention by the student teacher for the duration of the experience.

SPE 639 Inclusive Classroom Practice and Student/Intern Teaching 7-12*
The focus of this course is on the developing of skills dealing with effective inclusive classroom management and creating classroom climate conducive to student achievement. It provides comprehensive coverage of a variety of discipline models to aid candidates in building systems and conceptual models of total discipline based on their underlying theories; emphasizes activities promoting positive behavioral supports; increases pupil motivation; applies methods for establishing cooperative classroom routines, procedures, and practices; organizes the environment, including school wide, classroom, and individual supports; measures and reports progress.

This course of study will focus on the unique needs of students in grades seven through twelfth grades. Course study will include a focus on understanding how adolescent behaviors are influences by pedagogical practices and classroom environments. While general education curriculum is appropriate for the majority of students with disabilities, secondary learners who are at-risk for academic and behavioral failure, including those with disabilities, have specific learning and behavioral characteristics that can undermine progress through general education curriculum. Course content will include a careful analysis of the specific needs of intermediate and secondary aged learners, including: slower rates of acquiring information and skills, deficits in the ability to generalize learned skills to other settings or conditions, and a lack of ability to retain skills, all of which directly influence student behavior. Furthermore, course study will focus on the unique psychosocial problems of adolescents, social and interpersonal skill training priorities of young adults, classroom management and motivational strategies for adolescents, and validated learning strategies for adolescents and young adults.

Student Teaching
This course includes a student teaching component. The Pennsylvania Department of Education requires a Special Education student teaching experience for those individuals who currently hold a general education teaching certificate and are seeking a Special Education certification. Students will spend a minimum of 140 hours in a supervised teaching situation. In order to be prepared for this experience, students need to be aware of the following before registering for the course:

  • You are expected to complete a student teaching application.
  • You will locate potential student teaching sites in your local area.
  • You will seek permission from the school administration to allow the 4-week student teaching experience.
  • The SJU Student Teaching Liaison will locate a school administrator to serve as your student teacher supervisor.
  • If you are currently teaching, you may be permitted to student teach at your own school with permission of the SJU course instructor and the school administration.
  • The experience requires 140 hours (equal to four 35-hour weeks) of hands-on teaching with students who have IEPs. At least 10% of the class should be students with IEPs.
  • It is suggested that the 140 hours occur at the end of the semester, but possible arrangements can be made to complete the hours at different times during the semester.
  • Small group instruction is permitted as long as the same small group is provided consistent attention by the student teacher for the duration of the experience.

Advanced Special Education Elective Courses

SPE 630 Design & Technologies for Differentiated Instruction (3 credits)
This course provides comprehensive coverage of issues within the field of special education as it relates to instructional personnel's use of technology. Content coverage will include the special education process, informal and formal assessment, and research-based instructional and collaborative practices for students with disabilities and English Language Learners. The activities and assignments are designed to advance the knowledge and skills of the instructional technology specialist.

SPE 700 School Law and Policy: Special Education Issues (3 credits)
This course is designed to provide an overview of the legal rights of students and their families in the field of special education. Students will explore the source, history, and current status of special education law. Content covered will include an overview of laws and litigation affecting special education. The American legal system, particularly in respect to special education, the constitutional and statutory provisions of federal and state law, and judicial decisions interpreting those laws are reviewed. This course relates equal protection, procedural due process, and substantive due process doctrines to school practices affecting students with disabilities.

SPE 701 Cognitive Processes: Research-based Brain Studies for the Educator (3 credits)
This course provides an integrative survey of knowledge and research in the cognitive and neurological development of the young mind. The content is designed to connect cognition, neuroscience and educational practice with the critical periods of child development, including language development, visual systems, and psycho-social growth. Attention will be given to the basic structures of the brain and their corresponding dynamic functions, how neurons communicate with each other, and ways that networks of cells function in the vision, memory, and learning processes. The interaction and effects of learning and thinking and how the brain processes, consolidates and internalizes information will be explored.

SPE 702 Culturally Responsive Teaching Structured Language Instruction (3 credits)
This course is designed to align instruction along with the assets and differential needs of diverse student populations through applying and incorporating multicultural perspectives into the teaching-learning process to maximize the academic, cognitive, personal, and social aspects of student learning. It will provide ways to design and deliver culturally responsive strategies to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students and empower their families in the teaching and learning process. The course focuses on addressing challenges to the reading achievement of culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse students with disabilities. Issues covered will include assessment and intervention, curricula development and social/affective skills related to family, community, values and culture of students from different cultural and ethnic groups

WILSON Reading System® Courses

SPE 710 Introductory Workshop: Introduction to Multisensory Structured Language Instruction (1 credit)
Examines the definition of dyslexia and common characteristics, reading research and the five areas of reading in relation to students beyond grade two with persistent phonological coding deficits. Specifically studies the Wilson Reading System® (WRS), principles of language structure, how to teach language with direct, multisensory methods; including student identification and placement, program implementation, progress monitoring, scheduling, and creating a successful classroom environment..

SPE 711 Basic Word Study 1-3: Intensive Instruction for the Non-Responsive Reader (3 credits)
Presents in detail the multisensory structured language instruction that is required for teaching students beyond grade two with word-level deficits who are unresponsive to previous instruction. This course provides practical application of reading research, with particular emphasis on phonological awareness, phonics and spelling at the beginning levels of decoding and encoding. Provides specific procedures to teach the concepts presented in WRS Steps 1-3. Additional topics include accuracy and automaticity of word recognition, fluency with decodable text, and listening/reading comprehension at beginning stages of reading.

SPE 712 Basic Word Study 4-6: Intensive Instruction for the Non-Responsive Reader (3 credits)
Expands on the concepts presented in Part I with specific instruction additional syllable patterns and more advanced word structure. It includes additional course topics on vocabulary and developing fluency with authentic text. Provides specific procedures to teach the concepts presented in WRS Steps 4-6.

SPE 713 Wilson Certification Course Clinical: Intensive Instruction for the Non-Responsive Reader (Practicum) (3 credits)
Supervised practicum requires successful delivery of 60 WRS lessons (at minimum) and mastery through WRS Step 4.2 with an individual student selected according to WRS criteria. A Wilson trainer observes the participant working with his /her student five times during the practicum. Must demonstrate that the teaching plan is based on continuous assessment of the student's needs.
Note: Successful completion of SPE 711, SPE 712, and SPE 713 results in WRS Level I Certification.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist Endorsement Courses

SPE 720 Introduction to ASD: Overview of Causality, Diagnosis and Advocacy (3 credits)
Note: SPE 720 must be taken as the first Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialization course.
This course will provide candidates with an introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). With the increase in the number of individuals being diagnosed with ASD, this course will examine the challenge ASD presents to families, educators, students, related service providers, advocates, and policy makers. Course content will include an overview of ASD; family issues and challenges; ASD screening, diagnosis and assessment; an overview of intervention and treatment approaches; accessing appropriate supports and services; policy issues; advocacy and the experience of individuals living with ASD.

SPE 721 Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Socialization Strategies (3 credits)
This course will focus on a wide range of current research and evidence-based practices in the area of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) as it is implemented to increase, improve, and maintain functional communication skills of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In addition, specific strategies and techniques to address socialization skills for individuals with ASD as well as their communication partners will be addressed. Case studies, discussions, and activities will be utilized to personalize these strategies and techniques.

SPE 722 Evidenced-Based Practices: Assessment, Interventions, and Instructional Methodologies (3 credits)
This course will provide comprehensive coverage of the importance of using evidence-based practice in assessment, instruction, and implementation of interventions for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Course content will include identifying the legal basis and requirements for evidence-based practice; a review of how to locate and evaluate evidence in the literature base; ( a review of the theoretical basis of, and evaluation of th empirical evidence for screening and assessments; a review of the theoretical basis of, and evaluation of the empirical evidence for screening and assessments; the continuum of interventions from traditional behavior to social-developmental-pragmatic; comprehensive program approaches; and instructional strategies in the classroom. Additional topics will include the use of medical, dietary, and sensory interventions in the schools; pseudoscience and fad interventions; and finding the middle ground between parents and professionals in the decision-making process.

SPE 723 Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis: Behavior Management Approaches (3 credits)
This course will examine and introduce the major therapies/educational interventions that have been developed to treat autism and related pervasive developmental disorders. Applied behavior analysis (ABA), an empirically-validated treatment for individuals with autism and related disabilities will be discussed in detail. In addition, other emerging treatments including Greenspan, Relationship Development Intervention, and the principles of Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS) in Universal Design for Learning (UDL) will be examined in relation to ABA. In addition, scientific criteria will be compared to pseudoscientific criteria for various interventions. This course is relevant for both novices and experienced practitioners in the field of autism treatment.

*Course requires enrollment in EDU999 with corresponding $100 fee, charged once per enrolled semester.

To learn more about the online Master of Science in Special Education curriculum from Saint Joseph’s University and what it can do for your career, call (866) 758-7670 to speak with an admissions representative right away or request more information.

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