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Special Education Cohort Program

Licensure in Programs for Students with Disabilities Who Access the General Education Curriculum plus a Masters Degree

In the mid 1990s, the special education program at George Mason University initiated an outreach program called Special Education Licensure Fulfillment (SELF) to respond to school division requests to assist in the preparation of qualified personnel. The model was based on the concept that GMU should provide complete licensure and master's degree programs to teachers where they work, rather than requiring them to come to campus. This model was predicated on provision of all of the benefits of the on-campus program, including individual advising, face to face instruction from full time GMU faculty interspersed with collaboration and instruction from highly qualified adjunct faculty working in the same schools. It was felt that this model could provide convenience to the students as well as form a better link between academia and school realities.

One difference in the cohort program approach is the scheduling of courses on the same day over the life of the program to let students plan their lives more easily. Another is the ability of cohorts to schedule courses outside of the traditional semester scheduling of the university and at times that are convenient to the students. Some classes are offered fewer days for more hours per day or even on weekends. In fact, over the years, the cohort courses have been offered more on a quarterly basis than a semester basis, with four courses offered per year rather than three (fall, spring, and summer). This enables teachers to take four courses per year before schools are out for the summer and to take their summer vacations. Recently, there has been an increasing utilization of distance education and internet supported instruction both on and off campus enabling us to provide more comprehensive instruction which also fits within the busy lives of our students. However, face to face instruction is the predominant mode of instruction for our entire program and GSE Special Education Faculty feel that this approach maintains a higher quality of instruction for our students. Cohort students are receiving identical instruction to students taking on campus courses. Students in cohort programs meet the same admission and graduation standards as on-campus students.