M.A. in SelfDesign: Designing Learning Communities

SD 500 SelfDesign: Principles and Praxis

(3 credits) First Year Residency Workshop*
Learners in this course explore the three intellectual traditions that have informed the development of SelfDesign: holistic education, developmental and humanistic psychology, and systems theory related to autopoiesis. They investigate humans’ capacities for directing their own unfoldment at every age from birth on, that is, our capacity for designing self. Then they are introduced to the SelfDesigning praxis and tools and begin to develop understanding and skills that will empower them to employ these tools.

SD 501 Modes of Inquiry

(3 credits) First Year Fall Term
In this course we explore four modes of inquiry through which we know:

  1. The evolution of human consciousness as a species and its relationship to the evolution of the consciousness of each human from birth to adulthood
  2. The qualities and dynamics of story as an epistemological vehicle
  3. The four quadrant model of knowledge developed by Ken Wilber: including the Individual Interior, the Collective Interior, the Individual Exterior, and the Collective Exterior.
  4. The heart as a vehicle for knowing.

SD 502 Epistemological Foundations of Learning

(3 credits) First Year Winter Term
This core course explores both epistemology (how we know what we know: understanding the origin, nature and limits of knowledge) and ontology (the nature of human existence and, as part of that, the nature of learning). Learners examine the biological roots of life, cognition, language, and emotions, and investigate how these are conserved and altered in evolutionary and cultural lineages.

SD 503 Living in a Learning Community

(3 credits) Second Year Residency Workshop*
Each learner in this course is given an opportunity to facilitate the learning of the cohort and faculty by engaging the community in topics and activities chosen by the learner. In this way each learner can share her/his learning from the first year of the program and have the opportunity to engage colleagues in the trajectory of his/her M.A. program. The faculty share their own learning edges in the same manner.

*Both Residencies are required workshops. The credit-bearing elements of both courses take place online, as do all other SDGI courses.

Required Courses

LC 500 Living Inquiry: Examining the Experience of Community

(3 credits)
This course does not teach about inquiry. It constitutes a practice of inquiry. The horizons of inquiry are our everydayness and our immediate participation in daily life. We use four existential themes common to all of us to initiate our study of daily life: place, language, time, and self/other. Curriculum emerges from the shared investigations of the narratives, histories, and realities into which we were born, live and work.

LC 501 Intercultural Dimensions of Learning

(3 credits)
This course focuses on interculturalism (1) as a critique of multiculturalism and (2) as a proposal to engage in more open dialogue and active negotiation of meaning across assumed cultural differences in community formation. The course participants have an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the diverse and complex theoretical landscape of interculturalism. This entails working through issues of power relationships in society, colonial histories, racism and other forms of discrimination.

LC 502 Alternatives in Scholarly Writing

(3 credits)
This course explores what constitutes scholarly writing, as well as various non-traditional forms, styles and intentions that can be an appropriate fit within our research texts in progress. Writing a thesis is like running a marathon; being “in shape” is necessary. Constructive critique is critical to our writing at beginning and finishing stages. We will participate in collaborative critique.

Directed Studies

SD 504, SD 505, SD 506 Directed Studies

(3 credits each)
Learners self-design each Directed Study with the supervision of a faculty mentor, and then conduct the study in dialogue with the same faculty mentor. The faculty mentor assesses the learner’s enactment and completion of the study. In our Directed Studies, the learner leads the study; the mentor assists and supports the learner in her/his study.

LC 600 Master’s Thesis in Designing Learning Communities

(6 credits)
The Master’s Thesis represents significant original research in Designing Learning Communities and a substantial written thesis.


NOTE: In addition to LC electives, SD electives 510–531 are open to all Institute learners.

LC 510 Inclusivity and Marginality in Education

(3 credits) (Purru)
In this course, learners participate in a space of inquiry where different cultural narratives, discourses, languages, disciplinary experiences, life events and ways of knowing are engaged, confronted, renegotiated and transformed. The course employs the notion of “border” not only as a challenging geopolitical construct and an analytical category but also as an emerging epistemology.

LC 511 Micro to Macro Living Communities

(3 credits) (Jocksch)
Learners in this course confront the ecological reality that we are not alone, and explore interrelated living communities from several perspectives—microbiology, deep ecology and eco-theology. Using images of nature as the backdrop, learners reflect on the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution and modernity. The unprecedented destruction of our Earth home, invites us to a spiritual awakening, which learners will consider.

LC 512 Ways of Sense-making

(3 credits) (Sweeney, Decker)
Learners turn to musical and comic resources to reconsider the way we use our senses to “make sense” of our world and experiences. Taking a second look at the certainties and givens of communities, cultures and traditions, learners heed Hyers’ (1981) advice that “it has been the task of clowns and fools and comic heroes to remind us of our intrinsic freedom and flexibility.” Learners consider how to use music and comedy to explore communities as living expressions of “sense.”

LC 513 Observing for Learning

(3 credits) (Forsythe)
In this course, learners are asked “What does learning look like? What conduct would we describe as adequate to say that learning is occurring, has occurred, or that a learner ‘knows’ something?” Observing for learning is both an epistemological frame that departs from traditional notions of assessment and a methodology that radically transforms the relationship between learner and mentor as both come to delight and inquire in the construction of their own unique knowledge architecture.

LC 514 Conversation Circles: Nurturing a Passion for Teaching

(3 credits) (Forsythe)
Learners explore the possibilities of teacher conversations, formal and/or informal, for sustaining personal and professional growth. The course examines how sharing teaching experiences may contribute to teachers in the process of becoming. Another focus is to gain an understanding of the influence of social interactions in improving the practice of individual teachers and how cultural nuances affect the interaction process. Learners study the conversation theory of Gordon Pask and other scholars.

LC 515 Performative Inquiry: Dancing on the Edge of Chaos

(3 credits) (Fels)
Performative inquiry is an arts-based research methodology that invites cross-disciplinary exploration through drama/theatre, visual arts, dance, writing, and/or music. Researcher and participants engage in artistic practices and creative activities in order to investigate a research question or inquiry. Theoretically located within the interstices of complexity theory, enactivism, and performance studies, performative inquiry calls attention to our everyday habits of engagement, our assumptions, and our practices—who we are in relationship to others and our environment.

LC 516 Creating Community in the Classroom through Participatory Learning

(3 credits) (A. Smith)
This is a practical course for learners who are interested in using drama techniques to build community in their classrooms or groups that they lead. The strategy is to use drama activities to teach other subjects; the course is not about teaching drama and thus is accessible to everyone, not just drama aficionados. The course includes both theory and practice in participatory learning and performative inquiry through drama techniques, particularly role drama. Role dramas are multiple activity, integrative projects that can focus on one curriculum area or integrate multiple curricular areas. For example, a role drama that focuses on a social studies topic such as ancient Egypt could include learning activities in geometry, astronomy, social and religious structures, music, literature, archaeology, and/or geography/environmental science, from the imaginative stance of “what if”?

The work of Augusto Boal and other community educators and activists is explored through readings and discussion. Attention is paid to multiple intelligences, multi-literacies, and complexity theory.

Learners develop and implement a role drama within their own teaching/community situation and share their discoveries with colleagues through discussion and an audiovisual presentation. Learners test out their ideas with their colleagues and faculty mentor before they implement their role drama, building on the ideas of the class.

LC 517 Performing Truth and Reconciliation

(3 credits) (A. Smith)
In 2007, the United Nations adopted a Declaration of Indigenous Rights that was not ratified by either Canada or the US until 2010. This resistance to recognizing the rights of our own Indigenous peoples shows how deeply seated colonial attitudes of discrimination are in our countries’ governments and cultures.

In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) completed its work, having heard thousands of testimonies from Aboriginal people about the abuses they suffered in residential schools over three, sometimes four generations. The TRC has published documents that reveal important information that had been buried away from our collective consciousness. Now is the time to look at how our education of Indigenous children can redress the injustices of the past, to reach for truth and reconciliation.

That many public school jurisdictions across Canada are now requiring teachers to include the history of residential schools makes this course a valuable resource for understanding the ramifications of the cultural genocide perpetrated on our Indigenous fellow citizens.

In this course we will study the findings of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and other documents such as plays, poetry, stories, film, and novels from a variety of Indigenous cultures to understand the legacies of colonialism so that we can move forward in our work as educators to honour Indigenous peoples and to learn from them. This course is about both personal discovery and social justice in education.