Special Education: Modified and Comprehensive concentration Major Guide for 2012-2013

What is Special Education: Modified and Comprehensive concentration

Special education is the field in which professionals work to provide education for children with disabilities. Sometimes the difficulty is in an academic area. Sometimes the disabilities are severe physical, mental, and emotional ones. Special education teachers help students struggling in school to become as independent as possible. Special education is part of all schools. It is defined as specially designed instruction to meet individual needs of students with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that special education services be provided for students from preschool through high school.  Services must be provided for students with specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, cognitive disabilities, emotional disturbance, other health impairments, multiple impairments, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, autism, visual impairments, traumatic brain injury, developmental delay, blindness, and deafness.

Career Opportunities in Special Education: Modified and Comprehensive concentration

There are not enough special education teachers to meet existing needs. Critical teacher shortages exist in all areas and at all levels: preschool, elementary, middle, and high school. At our annual Education job fair, recruiters from surrounding states offer new computers, moving expenses, and signing bonuses.

Salary Trends in Special Education: Modified and Comprehensive concentration

Teacher salaries vary according to levels of formal training (bachelor’s degree, master’s, educational specialist, and doctorate) and the number of years of experience. Salaries vary among states and school systems. Students graduating from the special education training program at UT typically complete their master’s degree before beginning teaching. Since they also complete a one-year graduate-level internship, they begin as a second-year teacher. This places them two steps up on the pay scale—one for the advanced degree (MSE) and one for the internship-teaching year, when employed by a Tennessee school system.

High School Preparation

Students must complete the basic college track programs to be admitted to the university. High school guidance counselors are familiar with UT’s admissions requirements. High school is a critical period for vocational exploration and preparation. Students considering special education teaching as a career should seek out opportunities that would expose them to the disability population and to the professionals who serve this population. Most high school programs serving students with severe disabilities actively recruit “peer tutors.” Participating in peer tutoring programs will result in the acquisition of direct instructional skills, plus important first-hand experience with students with disabilities. Also, students considering this profession should take advantage of opportunities to informally interview special education teachers within their own schools. Such teachers are valuable resources in selecting a university training program and would be able to describe the particular programs they completed. The most important preparation activity is working with special needs students, whether as a peer tutor, a babysitter, or in another context. Many of our students come with a rich history of such experiences.

How to Major in Special Education: Modified and Comprehensive concentration

Prospective students should seek advising through the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences Office of Student Services (865-974-8194). Students apply for admission into the special education program after completing a minimum of 45 credit hours. They must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.7. Prospective students apply for admission by submitting written documentation and are subsequently interviewed by an admissions board consisting of special education faculty and professionals in the field. Students who are recommended for admission are then eligible to take education courses. Undergraduate coursework consists of a broad academic curriculum, with a balance of arts and sciences courses. Senior and internship coursework is highly specialized.

Requirements for Special Education: Modified and Comprehensive concentration

A minimum GPA of 2.7 is required for admission into the special education program. The Special Education Modified and Comprehensive Program leads to licensure to teach in K-12 settings with students with mild to moderate disabilities and students with severe to profound disabilities. Students pursue an undergraduate major in special education, with most of the education coursework and field experiences occurring during the senior year. Students receive a B.S. in Education at the conclusion of the senior year; and continue on for a fifth year internship in which they are mentored as first-year teachers in both modified and comprehensive settings. With an approved 12 hours of graduate work, students receive a Master of Science in Education degree.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

During the senior year, students complete over 250 clock hours of field experience in public schools associated with their special education coursework. Students gain experience in both comprehensive and modified K-12 settings. Students engage in activities ranging from assisting teachers with preparation of materials to accompanying classes on field trips to teaching lessons to small and large groups. Placements are made collaboratively with area school districts, including professional development schools in Alcoa, Anderson County, Knox County, Lenoir City, and Roane County. In addition, some students opt for an earlier field experience, which affords them an initial exposure to real-school experiences. During the fifth (internship) year, students rotate through both comprehensive and modified placements at various grade levels. Many also opt for elementary education and/or early childhood special education rotations during the internship.

Highlights of Special Education: Modified and Comprehensive concentration

The special education program has strong field-based components imbedded in the curriculum. These allow students the opportunity to explore a variety of age groups and types of disabilities throughout the program. During the fall and spring of their senior year, special education majors enroll in “blocks” of integrated coursework and field experience. Coursework addresses needs and characteristics as well as best practices in teaching methods for students in grades K-12 with both mild to moderate learning and behavioral disabilities and severe and profound disabilities. For approximately 10 weeks during fall semester, students spend two days per week in field settings, with rotations in elementary or middle school special education settings serving students with mild to moderate disabilities. For 10 weeks during spring semester students spend two days per week in a field setting, serving students with severe disabilities.  In addition to the blocks, students enroll in other educational coursework (e.g., instructional technology, instructional methods), typically during spring semester of the senior year.

The program is designed to be compatible with and to build upon coursework required for licensure in elementary education. Consequently, many special education majors seek to add licensure in elementary education by completing an intern rotation in an elementary setting. Further, for those students interested in working with preschoolers with disabilities, additional coursework and field experience leading to licensure in early childhood special education is also available.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

The Special Education program at the University of Tennessee helps prepare future educators to be “ready for the world” with coursework and applied experience in identifying and addressing the needs of diverse learners including English language learners. Culturally fair assessment practices and universal design for learning principles are incorporated into special education coursework and practice.

Additionally, please note that The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors.

Consult an academic advisor early in your academic career about the best time for you to study abroad as well as what courses you may need to take. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.  Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
English 101*, 102* 6
Anthropology 130* 3
Quantitative Reasoning Electives* (Math or Statistics) 6
Psychology 110* 3
1 Sociology Elective 3
1 Political Science Elective 3
2 Physical Science Electives 6
 Milestone courses: English 101, Quantitative Reasoning (3 hrs)
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Philosophy 252* 3
Communicating Orally Elective* 3
Educational Psychology 210 3
Non-US History 6
Geography Elective 3
2 Biological Science Electives * 8
3 Intermediate Foreign Language* 6
Milestone courses: English 102, Quantitative Reasoning (3 hrs), Educational Psychology 210; Interview after 45 hours completed. Must have 2.7 GPA
Junior Year Credit Hours
Arts and Humanities* 3
Economics Elective 4
Child and Family Studies 211 3
Information Sciences 330 3
Audiology and Speech Pathology 320 3
Recreation and Sport Management 425 3
Special Education 402 3
Elementary Education 422 6
Reading Education 430 2
Senior Year Credit Hours
Educational Psychology 401 3
Special Education 419 6
Special Education 420 3
Special Education 456 3
Special Education 459 3
Special Education 432 6
Special Education 430 3
Theory and Practice in Teacher Education 486 3

*Meets University General Education Requirement.
1 At least two of these three (Sociology, Political Science, Economics) should be from those Social Sciences courses that are approved for partial fulfillment of the University General Education requirement.
2 Must include 2 lab sciences from the Natural Sciences list.
3 Intermediate-level competence.

The following courses are taken during the post-baccalaureate professional year.

Internship Credit Hours
Theory and Practice in Teacher Education 575 12
Methods of Teaching in Elementary Subject Areas 6
Theory and Practice in Teacher Education 574 3
Theory and Practice in Teacher Education 591 3
Total 24

Students have the option of completing 12 additional Graduate hours for a Master’s degree.

To add Elementary Education, grades K-6, student will need to:


  • Successfully complete a supervised internship experience in the elementary education classroom, in addition to the student’s special education placement. Student must inform special education faculty of his/her intention.
  •  Complete six additional credits in elementary education methodology prior to or following the internship experience. The six credits chosen will be dependent upon the six credits completed during the internship.
  •  Complete appropriate Praxis exams in addition to the exams required for Modified and Comprehensive Special Education. 

To add Early Childhood Special Education, grades PreK-3, student will need to:

  • Successfully complete the Early Childhood Special Education Summer Institute (SI) either prior to or following the internship experience. The SI can also be completed prior to the Comprehensive “block” of courses, i.e. summer between junior and senior year.
  •  The Summer Institute consists of the following courses:

o   Special Education 410, 3 credits

o   Special Education 471, 6 credits

o   Elementary Education 445, 3 credits

  • A supervised classroom placement will be included as part of the internship experience.
  • Complete appropriate Praxis exams in addition to the exams required for Modified and Comprehensive Special Education.


For More Information

  • College of Education, Health, and
    Human Sciences
    Special Education Program Office
    A411 Bailey Education Complex
    Knoxville, TN 37996-3442
    (865) 974-3435/974-8194


    The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.