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TVI Program of Study

The program begins with one eight-week summer session, while the remainder of the program is delivered through web-based applications and culminates with a student teaching experience in or near the student's local community.

This 63-credit program for teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) provides a master's degree and an initial licensure. The program is also available as an endorsement.

Portland State University prepares Teachers of Visually Impaired Learners to become effective teachers in resource rooms, to effectively manage an itinerant caseload or to teach in special school settings.

  • Graduate level program for initial Teacher Licensure or Endorsement and Master's Degree
  • Summer session on PSU campus
  • All other classes are web-based
  • Comprehensive technology training
  • Practica and student teaching arranged in your home area
  • Full and partial scholarships available

See also the VIL program prerequisites and course descriptions.


Program schedule

Term Year 1 Year 2
Summer SPED 545 Orientation and Mobility
SPED 546 Braille I 
SPED 575 Braille III - Technology
SPED 596 Research
SPED 521 Behavior Management (if required)
Fall SPED 509 Practicum
SPED 510 Legal and Ethical Foundations
SPED 540 Foundations of Education for the Visually Impaired Learner
SPED 509 Practicum
SPED 544 Methods of Instruction
SPED 576 Visually Impaired Learners with Additional Disabilities
Winter SPED 541 Implications of Vision Problems
SPED 547 Braille II – Nemeth Code
SPED 520 Collaboration
SPED 597 Issues and Policy in Visual Impairment
Spring SPED 542  Assessment of the Visually Impaired Learner
SPED 543 Reading and Literacy K-12: VIL
SPED 525 Student Teaching (if required)
SPED 507 Master’s comprehensive exam

Course descriptions

SPED 509 Practicum I and II 

These courses serve to integrate course content within a practical teaching/learning environment. Specific assignments provide opportunities for students to apply, practice, and generalize concepts and skills learned in university courses. These courses will assist students in developing, clarifying, and applying attitudes and beliefs about quality educational practices. Teacher candidates will have opportunities to observe and participate in the responsibilities and roles of the special educator, (instructional and non-instructional), while enabling them to further develop their skills and abilities in instruction and classroom management. Additional seminar topics will help students to gain a broader perspective of the responsibilities and roles of the teacher of students with visual impairments.

SPED 510 Legal and Ethical Foundations

The course prepares students with the basic knowledge, skills, and values that are prerequisites to success in teaching children and youth with visual impairments, including those with additional disabilities.  This course will analyze the implications of visual impairments and the impact on students. There will also be an in-depth review and analysis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Application of IDEA rules and regulations applied to the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and as filtered through Department of Education policy guidance for students with visual impairments will be emphasized. Mandated components in relation to “No Child Left Behind” will be discussed and analyzed.  Professional writing skills, development of a personal philosophy of education, ethical principles, and diversity issues are covered.  Students will demonstrate knowledge of Federal, State, and district Referral, Evaluation, and IEP processes for children with visual impairments. Finally, students will become familiar with federal and state laws regarding discrimination in all areas relating to the public school system.

SPED 519 Principles of Special Education (3 credits)

Prepares students entering special education with basic knowledge, skills, and values necessary for future success in their profession. Major overview of theory and research underlying delivery of special education services in the public schools. Intensive study of career planning, graduate writing and research, information systems, current legislation, teaching and learning theory, curricular models, and professional ethics and standards. Pre- or co-requisite: SpEd 418/518.

SPED 520 Collaboration I: Families and Community - EL and EI/SE (3 credits)

Designed to develop knowledge in the areas of family systems theory, strengths-based model, information gathering techniques, and collaboration techniques with families and professionals. Information related to cultural competence is infused throughout the course. In addition, students receive information on grief related to having a child with a disability and the death of a student. Students are required to participate in a family conversation project to identify family strengths, concerns, and resources with a family who has a child with special needs. Prerequisites: SpEd 519 and admission to program.

SPED 521 Behavior Management in the Classroom (3 credits)

Primary emphasis will be on observation of classroom behavior with concomitant development of alternatives for intervention in helping children develop more appropriate behavioral skills.

SPED 525 Student Teaching (6-12 credits)

Observation and teaching under the direction of a supervising teacher. Opportunities for assuming direct responsibility for the learning activities of the disabled learner, for developing skill in techniques of teaching and schoolroom management, and for participating in the life of the school. Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of SpEd 509 Directed Field Experience II.

SPED 540 Education of the Visually Impaired Learner (3 credits)

Beginning with a historical background of the education of the visually disabled, this course provides an overview of basic information about visually impaired children and youth. Basic programming components and implications for conceptual and motoric development. Basic curricular components necessary for the visually impaired, leading to transition from school to adult life. Prerequisites: SpEd 418/518 and admission to the program.

SPED 541 Implications of Vision Problems of Children/Youth (3 credits)

Anatomy, physiology, common diseases, and hygiene of the human eye. Emphasis on vision screening, testing, and techniques for evaluation of functional visual skills in the classroom. Focus includes strategies for improving medical/optical eye reports. Emphasis on working with the regular classroom teacher regarding prevention of potential eye disorders and referral to eye specialists. Prerequisites: SpEd 540 and admission to the program.

SPED 542 Assessment of the Visually Impaired (3 credits)

Examination and application of diagnostic and assessment instruments useful with or modified for visually impaired learners. Designed to prepare teachers of the visually disabled for administering, scoring, and interpreting test results for program planning and implementation. Developmental areas include cognition, social/emotional skills, psychomotor skills, and self-help skills. Prerequisites: SpEd 418/518 and admission to the program.

SPED 543 Reading and Literacy - Visually Impaired Learners (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of language development and literacy instruction from pre-reading through adolescence. Age-appropriate methods for literacy instruction will be discussed, with emphasis on similarities and differences between sighted print readers and readers with visual impairments, including blindness. Both conventional and functional literacy will be addressed.

SPED 544 Methods of Teaching Academics: Visually Impaired Learner (3 credits)

Course focuses upon curricular adaptations for use with the visually impaired learner in the classroom. Academic areas examined and strategies for inclusion for the visually impaired learner in all aspects of the school curriculum. Teaching of Braille, use of abacus for mathematics, and adapted materials. In-depth curricular focus for the multi-disabled child. Prerequisites: SpEd 418/518 and admission to the program.

SPED 545 Orientation and Mobility/Life Skills (3 credits)

Focus on teaching independent travel skills to totally or functionally blind students. Methods and techniques presented to help the special and regular class teacher promote success in daily living skills as well. Prerequisite: SpEd 418/518.

SPED 546 Braille I (3 credits)

The Braille code is presented, to include Grade II literary Braille, and use of the abacus. Prerequisites: SpEd 540 and admission to the program.

SPED 547 Braille II (2 credits)

All special signs and symbols relating to the literary code are learned and special formatting techniques used in printed materials, charts, and graphs. Study of Braille Nemeth Code for mathematics. Prerequisites: SpEd 546 and admission to the program.

SPED 575 Braille III/Technology for the Visually Impaired (3 credits)

Study of computer applications for visually impaired learners, including existing and proposed hardware and software that would improve accessibility to print information by visually impaired and blind students. Adaptations of existing technology, evaluation of its effectiveness. Prerequisite: SpEd 540.

SPED 576 Visually Impaired Learner with Additional Disabilities (3 credits)

Study of visually handicapped students with concomitant disabilities such as hearing impairments, mental retardation, and behavior disorders. Emphasis on curricular adaptations, teaching strategies, and behavior management. Prerequisite: SpEd 418/518.

SPED 596 Research

Specialized topics in special education will focus on the scientific process and the development of research-based practice. Research regarding theories, interventions, instructional strategies, curriculum, and assessment are examined for each topic. This course will increase students understanding of the scientific process and how it is used to inform research-based practice in education. This course will teach students to become informed consumers of research through an evaluation of the theories, interventions, instructional strategies, curriculum, and assessment practices related to individuals with disabilities. Students will complete a literature review on a topic related to individuals with disabilities.

SPED 597 Issues and Practices in Visual Impairment

This course will provide students with an opportunity to explore and write an in-depth review of an issue, policy or practice related to the provision of programs and services to students and adults with visual impairments and blindness. 

Licensure information

Visit the Graduate School of Education Licensure site.