2016-17 Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs

Master of Science in Special Education


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

Department of Special Education
Program Director: Dr. Holly Pedersen


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, with the exception of the Developmental Disabilities/Autism Spectrum Disorders area.

Program Emphasis Areas

  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Special Education Strategist - serves students with high incidence disabilities in Learning Disabilities, Emotional Behavioral Disabilities, and high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders.
  • Developmental Disabilities/Autism Spectrum Disorder

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 .

MSU’s graduate programs in Special Education teach techniques for systematic data collection, analysis and data-based decision-making. MSU’s college of education has adopted “Professional Educator as Reflective Decision Maker” as the conceptual framework for all its professional education programs. Reflective decision-making is characterized by proactive, not reactive practice. Reflective decision makers: contemplate possible long-term consequences of professional actions; evaluate the appropriateness of these actions and the effects of these actions on student performance; and maintain an informed perspective concerning all aspects of teaching, instruction and student learning. MSU’s model is consistent with both historical educational thought and the special education faculty’s research based curricular principles. It is also consistent 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.

Student Learning Outcomes

MSU’s graduate special education program student outcomes:

  • Students will describe the philosophical, historical and legal foundations of special education.
  • 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

Students considering a graduate degree in special education will find a flexible program. Coursework is offered via distance technology through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous classes. Our graduate program can accommodate graduate students with different undergraduate preservice training experiences from within and outside the state.

The Master of Science in Special Education program can also be tailored to accommodate state-specific license requirements. Students seeking licensure in states other than North Dakota are responsible for verifying the requirements of that state. The program director and the student's advisor will work with the graduate student to develop an individual program of study.

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 education or a related area

Admission applications are recommended to the Graduate School by the Master of Science in 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 the Master of Science in 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

Special Education faculty members believe that graduate study should provide a strong foundation in theory, research, writing skills, and measurement. Therefore, all students seeking MSU’s Master of Science Degree in Special Education must include these core courses in their program of study:

SPED 501Intro To Graduate Studies3
SPED 503Research Design and Methodology3
SPED 505Consultation and Supervision in SPED2
SPED 510Intro To Disability Services3
SPED 531Conducting the Academic Literature Review 3
SPED 533Clinical Practice1-4
SPED 550Special Education Assessment2
SPED 588Thesis Writing Seminar3
SPED 599Thesis1-3
Total Hours21-26

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 service programs such as Part C and B Programs which include ECSE programs in public schools, or inclusive community programs.

ECSE programs of study include course work and supervised practicum experiences in assessment, program development and evaluation, family and community support systems, typical and atypical child development, management of the environment, and various types of applicable research.

MSU’s ECSE courses emphasize a responsive family approach to early intervention. Candidates gain experience in a variety of service delivery settings including home based, center based, and combination service delivery programs.

Special Education Core Requirements22-26
SPED 504Introduction to Preschool Children with Disabilities3
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
Field Experience
SPED 515Practicum6
Total Hours43-47

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 public schools. Their coursework focuses on the theoretical and practical aspects of learning disabilities. Throughout the SLD graduate experience, students participate in intensive, competency-based hands on experiences that translate current research into effective teaching. These experiences culminate in a supervised practicum where successful students must demonstrate competence in assessment, program planning and teaching of students who have specific learning disabilities.

Special Education Core Requirements22-26
SPED 561Behavior Problems of Exceptional Children3
SPED 572Methods Of Teaching the Learning Disabled3
ED 540Reading: Advance Diag & Remed2
Field Experience
SPED 515Practicum8
Elective Course
Clinical Practice Remedial Read
Total Hours38-42

Developmental Disabilities/Autism Spectrum Disorders (DD/ASD)

Students earning a Masters of Science degree in Special Education in the area of Developmental Disabilities/Autism Spectrum Disorders (DD/ASD) may choose a program of study that prepares them to: coordinate school service programs for children with autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities including intellectual impairments, physical and/or multiple disabilities. They will be prepared to collaborate with non-educational social service agencies, or serve as an educational consultant working for medical and diagnostic agencies in clinical settings.

The DD/ASD graduate program prepares students to serve people with a variety of severe disabilities including: autism spectrum disorders, intellectual impairments, and physical disabilities. This program will also prepare students to work with individuals with high-functioning autism or Asperger Syndrome and other individuals on the spectrum.

Subsequently, the DD/ASD program of study will typically include coursework in: assessment, behavior management, program development, program implementation, provision of physical care, habilitative techniques, assistive technology, and alternative systems of communication, social skills training, parent training, and the use of various team planning models. After demonstrating mastery of core competencies, trainees will gain practical hands-on experience using various service delivery methods in: public schools, community-based service agencies, home-based service settings, and residential service settings.

Special Education Core Requirements22-26
DD/ASD Coursework
SPED 502Studies in Autism Spectrum Disorders2
SPED 529DD/ASD Comm. & Asst. Tech.2
SPED 530Physical and Medical Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities3
SPED 542Methods & Materials in DD/ASD3
SPED 544Social Skills Strategies2
SPED 546Intensive Naturalistic Methods2
SPED 561Behavior Problems of Exceptional Children3
Field Experience
SPED 538Final Practicum in DD2
SPED 549Practicum in ASD2
Total Hours43-47

Special Education Strategist (SES)

The Special Education Strategist (SES) emphasis area is designed to prepare teachers as special education generalists. Students who complete an SES program focus will be trained to work with students who have high incidence disabilities in intellectual/developmental disabilities, emotional/social/behavioral disturbance, and specific learning disabilities. SES classes provide a firm foundation in theory, characteristics of learners, assessment practices, and implementation of validated best practice for academic learning and programming in independent living skills. Since SES students are generalists, they typically complete more practica experiences than students in other emphasis areas.

Special Education Core Requirements22-26
SPED 520Intro To Behavior Disorders3
SPED 524Methods of Teaching Individuals with Behavior Disorders3
SPED 572Methods Of Teaching the Learning Disabled3
SPED 561Behavior Problems of Exceptional Children3
Field Experience
SPED 523Field Seminar In LD/BD (Field Seminar in ED/BD)4
SPED 515Practicum4
Elective Courses
Introduction to Mild Disabilities (Introduction to High Incidence Disabilities)
Methods for Mild Disabilities (Methods for High Incidence Disabilities)
Final Practicum in DD (Final Practicum in IDDA)
Total Hours42-46

Deaf/Hard of Hearing 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 program embraces a comprehensive approach to preparing teachers with a goal toward providing educators with the knowledge and skills to work with children and their families from a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. The emphasis is on appropriately meeting the individual needs of children and youth, rather than promoting a specific philosophy. Students graduating from MSU will be prepared to work in a wide range of programs. 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 Listenting & 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
Field Experience
SPED 515Practicum8
Total Hours49-53



Dr. Brent Askvig

Associate Professor

Dr. Lori Garnes

Assistant Professors

Dr. Evan Borisinkoff

Dr. Holly Pedersen

Dr. Johnna Westby