Perceptions of Special Education Professors and Culturally Linguistically Diverse Doctoral Students on Cohorts

May. 21, 2010

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 33 no. 2, p. 169-182. (May 2010) .
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors investigate the perceptions related to cohort education models (CEMs) of special education professors and doctoral students. The doctoral program was located in a Carnegie-designated research extensive university in a multicultural, urban area in the southeastern United States.

Research Questions
Two major questions guided the study:
(a) Are there differences for students in the doctoral experience when they are part of a cohort, as differentiated from not being part of a cohort?
(b) What motivates students to continue in a cohort doctoral program, as differentiated from those continuing independently in a doctoral program?

To gain more insight into the CEM phenomenon, the authors interviewed professors involved with CEMs as well. Professors were asked, "What are your perspectives on CEMs for graduate programs?"


The Members of the CEM doctoral special education program were three students: two female students and one male student. Mily was a Hispanic female public school administrator in her late 20s. John was a married male of a religious minority in his mid-40s currently teaching within the juvenile prison system. Katherine was an African American reading specialist in her early 30s.
In addition to being ethnically diverse, two of the three CEM students were linguistically diverse (proficient in English, Spanish, and Flemish).

The non-CEM participants were three female students. Kay, in her late 20s, was a Hispanic woman working as an educational specialist in the district office. Carla, in her early 30s, was a Hispanic educator. Alexis was a White female in her late 30s working as a media specialist.

Three female special education professors (Dr. F, Dr. P, and Dr. S) from the College of Education (COE) also participated: Two were White and one was African American. The professors had either overseen cohort programs or had been in doctoral cohorts themselves.


According to the findings, three themes emerged:
(a) Organizational efficiency of CEMs and benefits to student learning outweigh concerns,
(b) structure of CEMs impacts students who are not in the CEM, and
(c) CEM structure impacts professors.

Benefits of a CEM included interstudent support, a flexible learning model, support for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) learners, opportunities for building trusting relationships, ease in class scheduling, and opportunity for maturation.

Presence of the CEM affected the non-CEM students and professors negatively in several ways.
They reported perceptions that the university neglected them and that, within the classrooms, their ideas were stifled. Non-CEM students felt that CEM students received preferential treatment and were provided more opportunities. They felt that the CEM students monopolized discussions in classes. They often felt isolated.

Although CEMs are strong mechanisms for supporting students, the faculty must be aware of group cohesion within cohorts to effectively engage the students in the academic process to address the retention problem of doctoral students, decrease the disparity between CEM and non-CEM students, and improve graduate studies programs.

Updated: Oct. 29, 2010