Dr Sarah Benson MA, PhD

Dr Sarah Benson

Dubai Campus
Associate Professor and Programme lead for Inclusion and Special Education Needs

Contact details

University of Birmingham Dubai
Dubai International Academic City
PO Box 341799
Dubai, UAE

Dr. Sarah Benson is an Associate Professor in inclusion and disabilities in the Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs. She is the programme lead for the Inclusion and Special Education Needs PGCert and Masters’ in the UK and Dubai.

Dr. Benson has published articles and book chapters on inclusive policy in the Middle East. Her interests lie in not only inclusive policy, but new teacher development and creating opportunities for students with disabilities. She has also spent time writing and researching inclusive science curriculum for primary grade students.

Her current research interests lay in the Middle East and Gulf where she is inspired to see the rapid growth opportunities for more inclusive communities.


  • PhD in Special Education, University of Virginia, 2020
  • MA in International Education, The George Washington University, 2010
  • BA in English and Special Education, James Madison University, 2002


Dr. Sarah Benson earned her Bachelors’ in English and Special Education from James Madison University in 2002, going on to teach students with significant emotional and behaviour disorders before leaving for the Middle East the first time. As a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2004-06 she studied Arabic language and culture, while providing training to Jordanian special education teachers. Upon her return to the United States, Sarah completed a Masters’ degree in International Education at The George Washington University, at the same time she was employed as a teacher, coach and mentor in one of the largest school districts in the United States.

In 2013 Sarah was chosen as a Fulbright Scholar, and travelled to Norway where she spent a year working with Norwegian teachers and students to develop inclusive practices. She was inspired during this year to begin working towards her doctoral degree. At the University of Virginia she was a part of a team that procured a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation for research and development of inclusive science curriculum, served as the President of the Curry School of Education and Human Development, and partnered on research projects into the refugee experience. She completed her dissertation entitled, A Comparative Case Study of Jordanian Inclusive Policies and Practices and successfully defended in May 2020.

Sarah’s ongoing research interests lie in the policy and practice of inclusion and special education needs within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She continues to engage in scholarship activities to promote inclusive practices in the MENA region.


Current modules:

Cross-cultural issues in special education needs and disabilities

Inclusion: Individual and group differences

Evaluation and policy analysis for inclusive education

Postgraduate supervision

Currently supervising PhD candidates


PI: ESRC-GCRF Bhutan Inclusive Employment and Social Participation Project

Co-I Disability Under Siege Network

Co-I Teacher’s Perception of Autism in Ras Al-Khaimah

Other activities

Member of the Council for Exceptional Children (US)
Member of Comparative International Education Society (International) 


Recent publications


Benson, SK & Alborno, N 2024, 'Inclusive Teaching Online: Lessons Learned', International Journal of Disability, Development and Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/1034912X.2024.2358841

Benson, SK 2023, 'Contextualizing inclusion policy: views from Jordanian special education teachers', Educational Research for Policy and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10671-023-09344-5

Benson, S, Therrien, W, Doabler, C & Lovette, G 2022, 'Rubrics: useful beyond assessments', Science and Children , vol. 59, no. 5, pp. 52-56. <https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/rubrics-useful-beyond-assessments/docview/2665176723/se-2>

Doabler, CT, Therrien, WJ, Longhi, MA, Roberts, G, Hess, KE, Maddox, SA, Uy, J, Lovette, GE, Fall, A, Kimmel, GL, Benson, S, Vanuitert, VJ, Emily wilson, S, Powell, SR, Sampson, V & Toprac, P 2021, 'Efficacy of a second grade science program: increasing science outcomes for all students', Remedial and Special Education, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 140-154. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741932521989091

Benson, S 2020, 'The evolution of Jordanian inclusive education policy and practice', Forum for International Research in Education, vol. 6, no. 1. https://doi.org/10.32865/fire202061177

Benson, S, Therrien, W, Hughes, CH & Morris, J 2017, 'Explicit instruction and next generation science standards aligned classrooms: A fit or a split?', Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 149-154. https://doi.org/10.1111/ldrp.12137

Benson, S, Hughes, CH, Morris, J & Therrien, W 2017, 'Explicit instruction: Historical and contemporary contexts', Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 140-148. https://doi.org/10.1111/ldrp.12142


Benson, S 2021, Into the mesa: A case study of Jordanian inclusion policy. in M Schuelka & S Carrington (eds), Global Directions in Inclusive Education: Conceptualizations, Practices, and Methodologies for the 21st Century. 1st edn, Routledge, London, pp. 255-275. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003091950-18

Commissioned report

Perepa, P & Benson, S 2024, Mapping teachers' preparedness to teach and support children on the autism spectrum in Ras Al Khaimah. Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy and Research, Ras Al Khaimah.

View all publications in research portal