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Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education
In the Department of Health and Behavior Studies

About the Program > Program Description

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Program Description

Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education

The new title of our cluster Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education (changed from Special Education in 2012) more accurately reflects our epistemological perspective and expertise in teaching children with native disabilities, as well as our strong presence in the development of inclusive general education classrooms and teacher expertise.

Along with fellow faculty in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies, we are committed to science-based approaches. We see the department as consisting of much of the expertise that is needed to promote effective educational outcomes for students: health and well-being, emotional stability, adequate nutrition, addiction prevention, and optimal teaching. Our particular contribution is the teaching, learning, and behavior change expertise.

Faculty in the Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education are committed to the study of students who are academically or socially delayed, deaf or hard of hearing, literacy challenged, economically disenfranchised, as well as those who perform at or above the level of their peers, and culturally diverse children and adolescents, especially those from high-need urban and suburban schools.

We provide master's-level teacher preparation and doctoral-level programs designed to provide all children and adolescents with scientifically based, differentiated, and measurably effective instruction.   Our programs build upon a century-old tradition of leading the field of special education in policy, practice, and research for individuals with disabilities across the age span.

Students who earn M.A., Ed.M., Ed.D., and Ph.D. degrees from Teachers College assume leadership and scholarly positions at all levels of professional activity including public and private schools, community and national service agencies, hospital and rehabilitation programs, colleges and universities, research centers, and local, state, and federal education agencies.


The graduate coursework, independent studies, research projects, and dissertations draw from the following five areas:
  • Foundations:  Includes coursework on theories of process and models of practice, cognitive structure and process, behavioral selectionism and complex behavior, disability constructs, equity and excellence in public policy, psycholinguistics and verbal behavior, and family studies and child development.

  • Service delivery systems:  Includes pedagogy, enrichment and acceleration, interdisciplinary programming, community-based systems of change, infancy/early childhood intervention, elementary education, transition and rehabilitation, urban education, and technology.

  • Exceptionality areas: Provides coursework in deaf and hard of hearing, intellectual disability/autism, physical disabilities, and multiple handicapping conditions such as intellectual disability/autism coupled with sensory and/or physical disabilities. 

  • Assessment and intervention strategies:  Includes management of social and unsocial behavior, communication and language, mobility, mathematics, reading, problem solving, visual skills and visual perceptual processing, and self-regulation.

  • Research and evaluation:  Includes applied behavior analysis, experimental research with individuals, group experimental design, and program evaluation.

The programs in the Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education cluster maintain close working relationships with a wide network of public and private schools, agencies, and clinical facilities, as well as centers here at Teachers College.