Program Conceptual Framework
Special Education (LBD, MSD, Director of Special Education), Grades P-12
Advanced Preparation Program
The following information describes the conceptual framework for the Department of Special
Education and Rehabilitation Counseling (EDSRC) advanced programs at the University of Kentucky
(UK). First, the UK professional education unit’s conceptual framework is stated which will give the
reader a global perspective of the advanced programs. Second, excerpts from the department’s mission
statement are provided which will allow the reader to understand the relationship between the unit and
the EDSRC. Finally, information will be provided which shows the relationship between the
conceptual framework and the advanced programs.
Conceptual Framework for the Professional Education Unit at the University of Kentucky
The conceptual framework for the professional education unit at the University of Kentucky (UK) is
guided by the theme, Research and Reflection for Learning and Leading. This theme is aligned
closely with both the institutional vision and mission of UK and the vision and mission of the
professional education unit. The theme reflects and guides how we approach preparation of
professional educators within the context of a research extensive, land grant university.
Research is a valued activity and tool within UK’s educator preparation programs. Faculty and
candidates generate scientific research using a wide range of research methodologies and contribute to
the professional literature. Programs use practitioner inquiry and data based instructional models in
applied settings to enhance student learning and professional development. Research findings from the
entire field of education inform design of courses, selection of interventions, and features of
professional education programs.
Reflection is a long-standing aspect of UK’s educator preparation programs and is, in our view, a
hallmark of professional practice. Reflective assessment of performance, outcomes, and approaches to
problems is a dynamic process appropriate for faculty, experienced educators, and candidates in initial
stages of their careers. Candidates are expected to complete numerous reflective activities as they
work to meet standards; the goal is to prepare educators who are capable of analysis and problem
solving that will result in improving educational practices and outcomes.
Learning is included as a component within our conceptual framework to underscore our commitment
to the many facets of learning and to highlight the ways in which our programs conceptualize,
promote, and accomplish learning. As a unit, we do not share a single theoretical view of learning.
Faculty and candidates conceptualize learning using a wide range of perspectives including behavioral,
constructivist, and social. We believe that our diversity of thought enriches and strengthens our unit.
The reference to learning in our conceptual framework encompasses learning among all those who
participate in our educator preparation programs and those who are affected by the educational efforts
of our faculty and candidates.
Leading is an expectation that faculty expect of ourselves. It is also an outcome that we promote and
nurture among our students. As members of the educational community at Kentucky’s flagship
university, we believe it is our obligation and privilege to provide leadership in educational policies
and practices across levels and dimensions of universities, schools, and agencies. We believe that as
leaders and followers work together to improve student learning among diverse student populations,
we can obtain positive results that improve education in Kentucky and beyond.
The four elements of our conceptual framework are synergistic and mutually supportive of our work.
Taken as a whole, research, reflection, learning, and leading provide a strong conceptual basis and
functional framework for the preparation of educators at the University of Kentucky.
Mission Statement of the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling
Inasmuch as the professional education unit has revised its conceptual framework (summarized in the
previous section), the departmental faculty will undertake the process of thoroughly reviewing our
mission and conceptual framework during the 2006-2007 academic year. Several principles will serve
this effort. The department's faculty believe that its mission statement should serve as (1) the
philosophical and conceptual underpinning for all major activities within the department, (2) the basis
for decision making with respect to long-range planning and development (which directly relates to
continuous assessment), and (3) a guide for the role of faculty members in the implementation of the
mission. It is within that context that the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation
Counseling serves within a community including many other agencies, groups, and individuals that
have as primary purposes the improvement of the quality of education. It is important to identify the
responsibilities of the department to these other components in the educational system in order to place
its mission in proper perspective.
The department is responsive to the general societal tenet that all eligible persons are entitled to an
equal educational opportunity and rehabilitation services based upon their needs. As such, it is the role
of the department to prepare special education personnel and rehabilitation counselors for employment
in a variety of settings. Departmental personnel engage in activities related to the generation and
dissemination of new educational knowledge and rehabilitation strategies. In addition, the department
recognizes its role as an agent of social change within the community by involving candidates and
faculty with social issues that are currently shaping the direction of special education, rehabilitation,
and education practices.
The department is also responsive to the members of the educational profession in general by
maintaining high professional standards, transmitting the current best educational and rehabilitation
counseling practices, and developing professional responsibility in its candidates. Faculty members
believe it is their professional responsibility to adhere to the standards of the various professions
represented in the department. Consequently, it is important to develop and maintain educational
programs that meet the standards of our accreditation agency (NCATE) and our professional
Conceptual Framework of the Advanced Programs in the Department of Special Education and
Rehabilitation Counseling (EDSRC)
The theme of research and reflection for learning and leading correlates with the standards and
competencies upon which the EDSRC advanced programs are based, namely those prescribed by the
Council for Exceptional Children and the Kentucky Experienced Teacher Standards. The departmental
faculty endeavor to provide advanced candidates with instruction and learning opportunities that will
serve as guideposts throughout their professional careers in the context described below.
Research is a prominent feature of the advanced programs in EDSRC and constitutes the foundation
from which reflective learning and resultant leadership are derived. The faculty believes that an
academic milieu that is rich in research enables candidates to become a) grounded in research-
validated methods of assessment, instruction, and curriculum development, b) critical consumers of
data based research during and beyond their advanced study, c) practitioners who are skilled in matters
of classroom-based data collection, and d) producers of original research in the course of fulfilling
master’s theses requirements (as applicable).
Nurturing the development of critical thinkers is at the core of the academic enterprise and is guided by
the necessity of and opportunities for reflection. Our program enables and requires candidates to
demonstrate reflective and insightful thinking with respect to course content presented, research
studies, and field-based decisions that are made in an educational environment.
Our goal is that candidates will, throughout and subsequent to their advanced training, view their
learning experiences as an interdependent dynamic of research and reflection that was sharpened by
field experiences and continuous feedback from faculty and peers. We believe it is critical to
professional growth that our candidates view their learning experiences as a foundation for continued
intellectual and professional curiosity rather than a final product of their training.
The ultimate goal of the advanced program of studies is for candidates to further develop leadership
skills for the benefit of the educational community. As special educators, advanced candidates have
the potential to serve as a) the day-to-day source of knowledge for general education colleagues and
parents with respect to the rights and needs of individuals with disabilities and b) an advocate for
students with disabilities and their families. Within each of these broad roles, our candidates are
expected to develop and demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to serve the ever-increasing
function of collaborator. A fundamental goal within our program is to enable our graduates to
positively influence the lives and education of students with mild disabilities by enhancing their access
to and participation within P–12 general education settings. To that end, we focus not only on the
development of attitudes and skills necessary for effective collaboration, but also on the
interrelationship of the Experienced Teacher Standards for all teachers and those of the Council for
Exceptional Children for special educators. The attainment of this knowledge and skill set will
enhance the quality of instruction delivered by a collaborative team that includes the content expertise
of the general educator. By acting in concert rather than separately, these educators can focus their
effort on improving the performance of students with mild disabilities on P-12 measures and provide
stakeholders with meaningful indicators of student progress in the context of not only the IEP, but also
within the general curriculum.
Insofar as specific program requirements are concerned, the production of original research within the
thesis requirement for master’s candidates also provides the opportunity to pursue a leadership role
with respect to professional inquiry. Similarly, the Director’s program specifically addresses
leadership through its credentialing of Directors of Special Education, which is a position of significant
import for policy development.
Finally, our department respects individual needs in our candidates and therefore strives to offer
multiple entry and exit routes to them. Our conceptual framework for advancement in the profession
allows candidates to link post-baccalaureate programs in special education to a variety of past
experiences. Our recommendations for advancement through the profession are based on individual
candidate’s formal college training combined with approved professional development outside of the
university program as well as their experiences in teaching. Our department recruits individuals from
diverse backgrounds with a variety of life and professional experiences to enter the special education
profession. Because we value this diversity of experiences, we feel strongly that their work as
graduate students in our department is considered professional advancement.