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Michael D. Eisner College of Education

special education

Department of Special Education - Philosophy


Philosophy Specific to the Specialization in Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Philosophy Specific to the Specialization in Early Childhood Special Education

Philosophy Specific to the Specialization in Mild/Moderate Disabilities

Philosophy Specific to the Specialization in Moderate/Severe Disabilities


The faculty of the Department of Special Education believe that society benefits when all individuals are able to achieve their maximum learning potential. Special Education serves this critical societal function by promoting knowledge, understanding, and respect for individual differences and unique learning needs. We are committed to preparing teachers to work with individuals with disabilities to ensure all students achieve their maximum learning potential.

The Department's educational program is built upon knowledge derived from a sound theoretical base, and rigorous research. We believe a quality program includes opportunities for reflection, problem solving and collaboration, and the application of knowledge and skills in settings that demonstrate effective practices. Working in partnership with schools and communities, a quality program provides ongoing support, mentoring, and guidance to its students while promoting innovative approaches for individuals with exceptional needs in the communities it serves. A primary role of the Department is the preparation of special education professionals.

We believe that well prepared special education professionals:

Faculty members within the Department of Special Education are highly qualified professionals with specialized expertise, skills, and knowledge in the field. As educators, we are committed to being skilled facilitators of learning, and we are responsive to our students' unique needs, upholding and modeling the highest standards of the field. We are committed to ongoing and evolving philosophy, content and practices. We collaborate with schools and communities to promote innovation and exemplary practices, and strive to assume advocacy and leadership roles in the field.

A primary assumption that guides our program is the belief that all students can learn. We believe that teachers of students with disabilities must be prepared to serve students with diverse needs by adapting instruction to accommodate individual differences, cultural backgrounds, and developmental levels of learners. In our view, this requires a highly skilled and reflective professional who is able to make sound educational judgments that are informed by theory, research, and best practice in the fields of general and special education.

Guided by this philosophy, the programs of the Department focus on preparing teachers to understand the diverse characteristics and backgrounds of students with disabilities, acquire methods in adapting curriculum and instruction that are built upon a strong foundation in subject matter instruction, and understand that teaching is a process that requires ongoing programming and evaluation.

Additionally, in order to provide best educational practices for their students, teachers must develop effective collaboration skills with general educators, family members, related service personnel, paraprofessionals and administrators. Collaboration is a key principle articulated throughout the credential program.

Finally, teachers of students with disabilities need not only knowledge and skills that reflect best educational practices in the field, but also must be leaders to create needed change. Therefore this training program emphasizes the development of problem solving skills, critical thinking skills to evaluate assessment results and various instructional practices, and creativity to accommodate unique needs.

Philosophy Specific to the Specialization in Deaf and Hard of Hearing: The Deaf/Hard of Hearing specialization is committed to providing students with an understanding of various communication/educational approaches and current applications, emphasizing the research basis for each approach. The program strongly supports a bilingual/bicultural approach, and facilitates the development of sensitivity on the part of future teachers in the field of Deaf Education toward the communication and cultural needs of deaf individuals. Candidates seeking a teaching credential in Deaf Education must demonstrate communicative competence in expressive and receptive American Sign Language. We are further committed to the appropriateness of a continuum of service options in order to meet the needs of deaf individuals, and believe that the individualization of placement and programs in the foundation of quality education.

Philosophy Specific to the Specialization in Early Childhood Special Education: The ECSE specialization is committed to preparing reflective professionals who will provide high quality services to infants, toddlers and young children, and their families. High quality services should reflect recommended practices in the field of early childhood special education, which combines effective practices in early childhood education with the specialized assessment and intervention approaches of special education, including: family guided approaches; services in natural environments; developmentally appropriate, integrated curriculum, and cross-disciplinary, collaborative, coordinated service delivery. Further, we are committed to assuring that each candidate has experiences and backgrounds related to working with children with a variety of disabilities, ranging from mild to severe and including multiple disabilities, and related to working responsibly with families from diverse linguistic and ethnic backgrounds.

Philosophy Specific to the Specialization in Mild/Moderate Disabilities: The mild-moderate specialization is committed to the preparation of highly effective educators who utilize research-based practices to address the educational and social needs of individual students with learning disabilities, mental retardation, and emotional/behavioral disorders. The faculty believes that these educators must be able to provide access to the general education curriculum, through modifications and accommodations, to implement explicit, systematic and intensive instruction, and to collaborate with families and other professionals. Graduates of this program are prepared to meet personnel needs in highly diverse urban settings, promote inclusive education, and engage in ongoing professional development that includes leadership roles in the school and community. 

Philosophy Specific to the Specialization in Moderate/Severe Disabilities: A basic assumption guiding the Moderate/Severe specialization is that students with moderate to severe disabilities acquire meaningful educational outcomes most effectively and efficiently in typical environments with peers who do not have disabilities. Therefore teachers of students with moderate and severe disabilities must acquire strategies for implementing instruction across a variety of educational settings and for supporting student interactions with peers without disabilities. Our program focuses on providing teachers with the skills and abilities to use appropriate assessments in order to identify and teach critical skills and monitor progress toward meeting identified goals within the natural setting. The program recognizes the extreme diversity of its students and emphasizes a person-centered approach that considers the cultural values of the family.