2018-2019 Academic Catalogs

Master of Science in Special Education


(701) 858-3050 / (800) 777-0750 ext. 3050

Department of Special Education
Program Director: Dr. Holly Pedersen


Special Education graduate programs at MSU prepare reflective practitioners equipped to be leaders in the field. The curriculum is aligned with Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) professional standards which are intended to foster: high-quality teaching and learning, equal educational opportunity, and improved student achievement in academics, behavior and independent living.

The Master of Science in Special Education degree consists of a set of core classes, including a capstone thesis, and a program emphasis area. These program emphasis areas listed below are also available as stand alone graduate certificates. All Special Education graduate programs are available online and designed for the varied needs of students who may also be working professionals.

Program Emphasis Areas

  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Special Education Strategist - serves students with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities and autism, and emotional behavioral disabilities.

Mission of the MS in Special Education Program

MSU’s graduate program in Special Education:

  1. provides exemplary learning experiences to prospective and practicing educators;
  2. provides technical assistance and service to schools, families, and other agencies;
  3. disseminates current and relevant information to state and local agencies; and
  4. conducts credible, practical research.

Vision Statement of the MS in Special Education Program

Students who complete one of MSU’s graduate special education programs will be reflective decision makers, who provide exemplary educational services to people with disabilities.

MSU students and faculty value all students, respect their families, and hold these core beliefs:

  • All people with disabilities deserve the respect, rights, and responsibilities afforded all people.
  • All children and youth can learn AND have a right to be included in educational settings with their peers as often as possible.
  • Teachers help students work toward independence, self sufficiency, and realization of their goals and dreams.
  • Special educators are agents of positive change, assisting individuals, families, organizations, and local and regional systems.
  • Special educators' decision making results in programs that promote student success in academic learning and independent living.

Principles of the MS in Special Education Program

  • Special education faculty members seek to prepare teachers who will promote student independence, celebrate diversity, and foster inclusion in a technological, literacy intensive global community.
  • MSU’s program prepares graduate students to teach children with disabilities using validated curriculum, materials, and practices. Current research informs class content and focuses developmentally appropriate practica experiences.
  • Special education teachers develop and implement successful special education programs using careful and thoughtful application of professional knowledge, skills, and experience.
  • Successful special education teachers evaluate the efficacy of their work through observation of student behavior and through validated implemented interventions .

Student Learning Outcomes

MSU’s graduate special education program student outcomes:

  • Students will apply philosophical and legal concepts in the field to leadership practices that positively impact services for individuals with disabilities.
  • Students will describe the characteristics of learners with and without disabilities.
  • Students will demonstrate appropriate assessment, diagnosis and evaluation procedures and strategies for individuals with disabilities.
  • Students will use appropriate instructional content and practices for individuals with disabilities.
  • Students will plan and manage the teaching and learning environment for individuals with disabilities.
  • Students will engage in and facilitate appropriate communication and collaborative partnerships.
  • Students will demonstrate professional and ethical practices.

Planning Your Graduate Program of Study

The faculty advisor and student will work together to plan an individual program of study. The MS in Special Education is a ND state approved program; students seeking licensure in other states or provinces are responsible for knowing the requirements for the setting in which they intend to practice.

Admission Standards

Candidates seeking admission to the Master of Science in Special Education program must complete the admission requirements of the Graduate School and have:

  • an overall GPA of 2.75 or 3.0 in the last 60 hours of coursework
  • a completed bachelor’s degree in special education, education, or a related field. Depending on the student's background, some pre-requisites may apply.

Admission applications are recommended to the Graduate School by the Special Education program director in consultation with program core faculty. Application due dates are posted on the Graduate School webpage.

Retention Policy

Students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average to remain in any Special Education program.

Academic Honesty

Academic honesty is at the core of any graduate program. Any behavior deemed as academically dishonest by the Special Education department will result in disciplinary action including, but not limited to, a failing grade for the assignment and/or course, and/or dismissal from the program. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following types of behaviors:

  1. Misrepresenting another individual’s work as one’s own, e.g. plagiarism.
  2. Copying from another student during an exam.
  3. Altering one’s exam after grading for the purpose of enhancing one’s grade.
  4. Submitting the same paper to more than one class.
  5. Use of any material not approved by the instructor during an exam.
  6. Turning in reports intended to be based on field collected data but, in fact, is not.
  7. Failure to respect the confidentiality of students/persons served or studied.
  8. Failure to uphold the professional standards for ethical conduct as set forth by the Council for Exceptional Children.

Special Education Degree Core Requirements

ED 573Educational Leadership3
SPED 501Intro To Graduate Studies3
SPED 503Research Design and Methodology3
SPED 505Consultation and Supervision in SPED2
SPED 510Law & Policy in Special Education3
SPED 515Practicum4
SPED 531Psychoeducational Aspects of Exceptional Children3
SPED 533Clinical Practice1
SPED 550Special Education Assessment2
SPED 599Thesis1-3
Total Hours25-27

Capstone Requirement

All students seeking the Master of Science Degree in Special Education at MSU must successfully complete an approved program of study and complete a thesis.

Exit Requirement

All masters degree candidates must take the Special Education Praxis 2 exam appropriate for their chosen emphasis area.

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

Students earning a Master of Science in Special Education with an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) emphasis learn to work with young children, and the families of children, with or at risk for developmental delays. Successful ECSE students learn to assess young children with suspected developmental delays, develop appropriate intervention programs, and coordinate a variety of services in educational and community settings.

Special Education Core Requirements22-26
SPED 504Introduction to Services for Young Exceptional Children3
SPED 509Infant/Toddler Development3
SPED 530Physical and Medical Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities3
SPED 543Methods of Teaching ECSE3
SPED 563Family and Community Systems in Early Intervention3
Total Hours37-41

Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)

Students earning a Master of Science in Special Education with an emphasis in Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) learn to provide effective instructional services in educational settings. The coursework focuses on the theoretical and practical aspects of learning disabilities and effective support methods for this population.

Special Education Core Requirements22-26
SPED 561Classroom Management and Positive Behavior Support 3
SPED 572Methods Of Teaching the Learning Disabled3
ED 540Reading: Advance Diag & Remed2
ED 541Clinical Practice Remedial Read2
Total Hours32-36

Special Education Strategist (SES)

The Special Education Strategist (SES) emphasis area is designed to prepare teachers as special education generalists. The SES program focuses on supports for students who have learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities and autism, and emotional/behavioral disabilities.

Special Education Core Requirements22-26
SPED 517Methods for Mild Disabilities3
SPED 524High-Intensity Support Methods3
SPED 529Assistive Technology2
SPED 543Methods of Teaching ECSE3
SPED 561Classroom Management and Positive Behavior Support 3
Total Hours36-40

Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) Education

The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Education emphasis area prepares educators to effectively teach students who are deaf or hard of hearing in a variety of educational settings.  The emphasis is on appropriately meeting the individual needs of children and youth, rather than promoting a specific communication philosophy. Depending on their backgrounds, candidates may need to meet certain pre-requisite coursework such as sign language, introduction to deaf education, and audiology.

Special Education Core Requirements22-26
SPED 513Deaf Studies3
SPED 565Early Intervention: Deaf/HH3
SPED 583Strategies to Support Listening & Spoken Language3
SPED 584Teaching Language to Deaf/HH3
SPED 585Advanced Audiology for Educators of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing3
SPED 586Teaching Reading/Academics to DHH4
Total Hours41-45



Dr. Brent Askvig

Associate Professors

Dr. Lori Garnes

Dr. Holly Pedersen

Assistant Professor

Dr. Evan Borisinkoff

Dr. Wenjing Zheng


Ms. Heather Lee