Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive examination process is overseen and evaluated by a comprehensive examination committee. This committee typically consists of the student’s program advisor and/or research supervisor and two other faculty members with expertise relevant to the chosen areas of focus.  With the exception of the student’s program advisor and/or research supervisor, the membership of the comprehensive examination committee may or may not include members of the student’s dissertation committee.

The purpose of the comprehensive exams in Special Education is to help the student develop and display those competencies expected of a recent PhD graduate and required of a beginning academic. These competencies cover a broad range of areas within Special Education, including teaching, research, and service. Students will present evidence of their learning through their comprehensive experiences in a professional portfolio and oral defense (see below). Students will be expected to show evidence of the competencies developed within two years of entering the program.

Each student will be expected to complete three activities for the comprehensive exam, at least ONE activity from Section A and up to TWO activities from Section B. Each activity must have prior approval by the student’s comprehensive examination committee. Progress in completion of these requirements will be reviewed annually, and then evaluated in a final portfolio and defense.

Section A

  1. The generation of publishable research that makes a contribution to the field. Examples of products include an article or a chapter in an edited book. In the case of collaborative products, the student must make a substantive contribution.
  2. A paper presentation of the quality expected at a peer-reviewed conference. In the case of collaborative presentations, the student must make a substantive contribution.

Section B

  1. Involvement in a teaching-related activity at a professional level. Examples of teaching-related activities include teaching a course or involvement in curriculum revision of a UBC course.
  2. The preparation of an application form for research and/or fellowship support. The student must declare that he or she intends to use this application as a comprehensive requirement well in advance of submission.
  3. Demonstration of service to the community at a professional level. This could include, for example, consultation with teachers or families, leadership in a professional organization, or presentation of a workshop for teachers and/or families.

The Professional Portfolio

To complete this examination, the student will be responsible for developing a portfolio that includes completed comprehensive projects as approved by their committee. The portfolio should include: (a) artifacts tracing their engagement in each of the chosen activities (e.g., conference proposal, program, and paper/poster completed); and, for each activity (b) a reflection on what the student learned through engaging in that experience, including a description of goals for the experience, competencies developed, challenges and lessons learned, and advice to themselves for “next time”. The portfolio can be prepared electronically or in hard copy (or in some combination), as long as it serves the purpose of documenting the students’ learning through the comprehensive exam activities.

Evaluation Process

When students have completed all of the required comprehensive activities and prepared their professional portfolio, they should work with their program advisor and/or research supervisor to schedule a meeting of their comprehensive examination committee.  The portfolio should be made available to committee members at least 3 weeks prior to the meeting. At the meeting, students are expected to engage in an oral defense. For that, they should present a brief overview of their learning from each activity, and then engage with the examining committee to reflect on competencies developed and “next steps”. The presentation/discussion can be organized activity by activity and/or with an overall presentation followed by discussion (at the discretion of the student and committee).

The comprehensive exam will be judged as successfully passed if: (a) the student has completed each of the chosen activities to a high standard as expected of a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education at UBC; (b) the student has provided evidence of the development of competencies as appropriate to each of the chosen scholarly activities; and (c) the student has demonstrated learning through the activities that will inform their further scholarly development (e.g., by tracing accomplishments, challenges, what’s next).

Students will be provided with an evaluation of their comprehensive exam after a short in-camera meeting after the oral defense. Successful completion of the comprehensive examination will require a mark of “pass” from all three committee members.

Should the portfolio and/or oral defense be assigned a failing mark by the committee, students will be provided with specific feedback outlining problems and will be allowed to revise and resubmit their portfolio within six weeks.  Students who have not passed after one revision will be asked to withdraw from the program.

SPED Comprehensive Examination Approval Form