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Online BS in Special Education Academic Behavioral Strategist Courses

Curriculum Details

69–70 credit hours required in the major

When earning your special education bachelor’s degree online with Southwest Minnesota State University, you’ll complete 25 courses for 69–70 credits. This online program is accredited by the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board and the Higher Learning Commission. After completing your bachelor’s degree program, you’ll be equipped with the credentials to teach K–12 special education for students with mild to moderate disabilities.

Standards of Effective Practice Core


An introduction to early childhood, elementary, and secondary education for students interested in teaching. Students will explore their potential for teaching in light of admission criteria and licensure requirements. Includes study of historical and social foundations of education; topics such as inquiry into the teaching and learning process, schools in a multicultural and diverse society, the profession of teaching; principles of cooperative group learning; and cultural differences, communication, and stereotyping. Fifteen hours of field experience is included.

The focus of this course is educational uses of technology. Students will explore computer applications as tools for their own learning, as well as the ethics of electronic communications, and will begin developing a Teacher Education portfolio using LiveText software.

This course provides information on the various exceptionalities and facilitates understanding of the basic special needs education services provided to children with disabilities, and includes gifted and talented. Topics include federal and state mandates, planning with parents, team approaches, teaching methodologies, and curriculum modifications and adaptations. A portfolio, reflective journal, and field experience will assist students in valuing diversity and inclusion.

This required course will help the teacher education student begin a plan for professional development. A portfolio will be an ongoing project for the course, as well as discussions and activities related to preparing for the teaching profession. Students taking the course will complete their Pre-Student Teaching Experience.

This required course will help the teacher education student begin a plan for professional development. A portfolio will be an ongoing project for the course, as well as discussions and activities related to preparing for the teaching profession. Students taking the course will complete their pre-student teaching experience.

This course is designed to introduce TESL teacher candidates to fundamental theories in the field of teaching ESL. The course builds a foundation of understanding of English learners and topics impacting the academic experiences of language minority students in the United States. TESL teacher candidates will participate in a 15 hour lab field experience with focus on culturally and linguistically diverse learners.

The required preparation includes two years of HS foreign language or one year of foreign language in a post-secondary setting.

This is an introductory study of child growth and development from conception through adolescence with a concentration on the physical, cognitive, and social-emotional domains of development. Emphasis areas of the course include: historical foundations and theories associated with the study of child development, the research process, the implications of teaching and learning, student diversity and pertinent topics associated with the possible effect of environment and behavior on prenatal development through adolescence.

The course acquaints students with the basic theories, methods of study, and research findings on children’s and adolescents behavior and cognition. Emphasis is placed on critical thinking about claims made in this area.

Standards of Effective Practice Core (Select one of the following)


This required course for all secondary (5-12/K-12) licensure students addresses instructional strategies and assessment, diversity and exceptionality, classroom management, and home-school-community relationships. Students plan for and teach in clinical settings at nearby secondary schools.

Provide education teacher candidates an understanding of the principles of effective classroom management and an opportunity to use a range of strategies to promote positive relationships, cooperation, and purposeful learning in the classroom; grow in their knowledge on how to create learning environments that contribute to the self-esteem of all persons and to positive interpersonal relations, establish a positive climate in the classroom and participate in maintaining a positive climate in the school as a whole. Participants will professionally grow in their development of skills necessary to lead with confidence, compassion, creativeness and commitment and team planning and teaching with multi-age grouping for K – 6 diverse learners. Teacher candidates cooperatively plan and teach content and skill objectives during a special two-day clinical lab experience in a K – 6 setting with diverse learners.

Covers concepts and ideas which enable students to recognize and identify oppression, discrimination, and racism, along with learning techniques for building a community of teachers and learners in a pluralistic society with its great variety of cultures, value systems, and life styles. Includes study of American Indian language, history, government and culture.

Causes and consequences of prejudice, discrimination, and segregation; relationships of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities to dominant categories in the United States and globally; remedial programs to reduce racial, ethnic, and religious tensions.

Elementary Education Core


This course is a study of children’s literature at pre-primary, kindergarten, and elementary levels, with emphasis on diversity.

This course is an introduction to early literacy and linguistics, which is the scientific study of language. The theory of linguistics and teaching methods will be investigated. Topics taught in this course are language development, including the sounds of language and how they are produced (phonology); the structure of words (morphology); sentence structure (syntax); and how meaning is expressed (semantics). Early literacy topics addressed in this course include concepts about print, alphabetic principle, phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, fluency, and written language. Emphasis will be placed on teaching techniques, strategies, and assessment tools used to instruct beginning readers, with special focus on the need to differentiate instruction to accommodate the needs of all learners, particularly the struggling reader and students for whom English is a second language. There is a 15-hour field experience attached to this course.

The course enables teacher candidates to improve communication proficiency as language develops in the child from early childhood through adolescence. With consideration of the academic ELA standards and inclusion of the ELA literacies: reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and visually representing – including media/digital literacy, the focus of the content of English language arts includes: literature, writing, vocabulary, spelling, grammar/language conventions & effective usage, poetry, phonics, and handwriting. This course explores the process of language development and appropriate strategies to stimulate and encourage the continuation of language growth, and includes focus on understanding interrelationships among culture, language, and thought, with emphasis on technology, diversity, and the needs of English learners. Teacher candidates will complete an informal (self-placed) eight-hour field experience.

This course addresses the total spectrum of an inclusive P-6 developmental literacy program, including a study of phonemic, graphemic, and semantic systems, as well as strategies for teaching fluency, vocabulary, writing, and comprehension skills to learners. This course includes a field experience with structured assignments for teaching reading skills to diverse learners in grades P-6.

This course focuses on the central concepts and tools of inquiry for effective standards-based teaching and learning of mathematics from pre-kindergarten through grade 8. The course will address concept development, skill attainment, problem solving, lesson planning, assessment procedures, and techniques for accommodating different learning styles. Fifteen hours of classroom visits for guided practice and teaching a unit using appropriate methods for diverse learners are included.

The purpose of this course will be to learn research techniques and applications by participating in action research, specifically the performance assessment required by the State of Minnesota for teacher candidates who want to obtain a Minnesota teaching license. This course will focus on action research and researching learning strategies in preparation for teaching.

Special Education Courses


This course provides the characteristics and educational programming for mild to moderate disabilities, including emotional behavior disorders, learning disabilities, developmental cognitive disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and other health disorders.

This course provides strategies for planning assessment, concepts of measurement, interpretation of assessment results, and their use in making programming decisions for individual students in special education.

A course in the best practices and procedures in curriculum instruction techniques and performance evaluation for all exceptionalities. Application in the process of individualized programming and modification/accommodation plans in integrated educational settings, use of assistive technologies, and adaptive techniques will be covered.

A course in theories of behavior, functional behavior assessment, and the laws, policies, and ethical principles regarding the planning and implementation of positive behavior supports for students with challenging behavior.

An understanding of the issues, resources, and techniques of communication, collaboration, consultation, and transitions for children, their families, the school, and all stakeholders in regular and special education settings. This includes professional reflection and development. The role of mental health professionals and agencies is included.

Procedural safeguards for legal, judicial, medical, and educational systems that serve students with disabilities are studied, which includes due process and transition.

This course provides an overview of autism spectrum disorders for individuals from birth through age 21. Identification and legal requirements, current theories and practices, medical and neurological perspectives, social/behavioral characteristics, and coexisting conditions will be studied with an understanding that educators rely on the assistance of a partnership with parents.

Student Teaching


This course consists of the final SMSU School of Education Teacher Education Program requirements for teacher licensure in Minnesota. Teacher candidates successfully completing all the requirements for MN licensure will be moved forward for licensure recommendation.

Supervised semester long field experience, required for K-12 Special Education licensure fields, in kindergarten – Grade 12 classrooms, evaluated by a classroom supervisor and a University supervisor. Students demonstrate Teacher Education program outcomes and present a portfolio at a final conference.

Admission to Teacher Education program required.

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