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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

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Program Description

Applied Sciences of Learning and Special Education

The new title of our cluster (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. Faculty in our fellow clusters and we in the Department of Health and Behavior Studies are committed to science-based approaches. Our approach to education of all children via the applied sciences of learning is consistent with the applied science approach of our department. We see the department as consisting of much of the expertise that is needed if children are to receive what is needed to provide effective educational outcomes: health and well being, emotional stability, adequate nutrition, addiction prevention, and optimal teaching. Thus, each cluster contributes to what is needed to provide optimum outcomes. Our particular contribution is the teaching, learning, and behavior change expertise.

We provide master's-level teacher preparation and doctoral-level teacher educator programs designed to provide all children and adolescents with scientifically based, differentiated, and measurably effective instruction. We are committed to, and particularly expert at, preparing teachers and teacher educators with expertise in the applied sciences of differentiated instruction. The specialized expertise of our faculty has been sought and disseminated throughout the USA and the world (Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, England, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and Taiwan) to serve a range of children and adolescents. These include students who are academically or socially delayed, hearing and language impaired, literacy challenged, economically disenfranchised, as well as children or adolescents who perform at or above the level of their peers.  We are also committed to providing data-based differentiated instruction to culturally diverse children and adolescents, especially those from high-need urban and suburban schools in instructional settings that provide the best outcomes for all children and adolescents, based on continuous data-driven instruction using tested pedagogical and curricular practices.

Towards that end we seek to identify, support, and educate individuals who share our vision that teaching, and the provision of optimum learning conditions, is a scholarly, scientifically based, learner-driven, and empirically based enterprise. We are committed to preparing teachers and researchers to develop and provide data-based differentiated instruction that entails continuous data-driven instruction, using tested pedagogical and curricular practices.

The special general education programs leading to dual certification at Teachers College build upon a more than 97-year 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 change, infancy/early childhood intervention, elementary education, transition and rehabilitation, urban education, and technology.

Exceptionality areas: Provides coursework in behavioral disorders (e.g., autism, emotional disturbance), deafness and hearing impairment, intellectual disability/autism, physical disabilities, and multiple handicapping conditions including 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.

In addition to lectures and seminars in the preceding five areas of study, students participate in special projects and complete practicum assignments in a variety of settings, which include the following:

Students enrolled in the Program in Applied Behavior Analysis complete their M.A. and Ph.D. internships in schools that meet the research-based and professional accreditation standards for the designation of CABAS® Professional Teaching Schools.  These schools include The Fred S. Keller School, for typically developing children and children with autism spectrum disorders 16 months to age 5, with campuses located Westchester and Rockland County, NY; Hillcrest School (grades K-2) and Alexander Hamilton School (grades 3-5) in Morristown, NJ; and Rockland County district-based elementary classes.  See www.cabasschools.org for more information.

The Dean Hope Center provides learner-centered demonstrations of assessments and evaluations, instructional practices, and follow-up evaluations that promote student-directed learning and performance across settings and time. Special education students work in collaboration with students from school psychology, speech pathology, health, and nutrition, as well as clinical and counseling psychology programs. The Center provides opportunities for practicum experience and research-based demonstrations of effective practice. The Center has an extensive remediation and testing library, testing rooms, observation rooms, and audio and video recording capabilities available for graduate student use.

The Center for Opportunities and Outcomes for People with Disabilities provides support for research, evaluation, and demonstration efforts aimed at increasing opportunities for individuals with special needs to become fully included members of society. The Center provides opportunities for students to participate in research and evaluation projects in such areas as ethnic and cultural differences; language and communication; motivation and verbal behavior; systems of schooling and models of service delivery; inclusion and its social impact; families and siblings; cognition, personality, problem solving, and self-regulated thinking; reading, literacy, and the arts; decision-making and abuse prevention; personnel preparation; social justice and social policy; and self-determination and independence.  

The Department maintains close working relationships with a wide network of public and private schools, agencies, and clinical facilities. Students may participate in field-based activities ranging from the Very Special Arts Festival hosted by the New York City Department of Education and Teachers College to school-based practica in a variety of settings.