M.A. in SelfDesign

Core Courses

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.

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.

SD 600 Master’s Thesis in Self Design

(6 credits)
The Master’s Thesis is significant original research in SelfDesign and a substantial written thesis. It may also be a significant project in the application of SelfDesign and a substantial documentation of the project.


NOTE: All electives offered by the Institute are open to all Institute learners.

SD 510 Evolutionary Aesthetics: Education, Imagination and Social Transformation

(3 credits) (Burgess)
Learners in this course explore evolutionary aesthetics: education as a living process, creativity as a learning process, and social transformation as an evolutionary process. They inquire into and consider the importance of creativity in education, of education in social transformation, and of aesthetic beauty in life, nature, the arts and sciences, health and healing, creativity, culture, and evolution.

SD 511 The Art and Architecture of Consciousness

(3 credits) (Burgess)
Learners in this course explore the patterns and dynamics of relationship reflected in the foundational processes of life and the deep structures of consciousness. They investigate and reflect on the ways these dynamics embody the essence and beauty that simultaneously describe the most basic and most complex of living systems, from fundamental patterns embodied by the natural world to social networks, sacred structures, psyche and soma, the subtle body, and processes of consciousness.

SD 512 Ecosystems of Education

(3 credits) (Sutton)
Education, like all other aspects of life, functions as an ecosystem with each aspect impacting all others. This is true whether we attend to it or not; the only issue is whether we work consciously with it so the child’s whole experience is in service of our educational goals and we all have a sustainable and healthy experience.

In this course learners explore the Enki Education Web, the underlying structure of the Enki ecosystem, as a tool to look at educational ecosystems in general. Each week students engage in short exercises at home that give them a personal experience of the particular “web thread” or principle in focus as well as specific reading on the topic. These “web threads” or principles include environment; rhythms; unity and diversity; body, heart, and mind; developmental mirror; activity of learning; teacher health; adult models; essential energy; family and community; and wisdom and vitality. In class we debrief this “field application” and reflect on the web principle from the vantage point of direct experience. In this way, the learners each have their own personal experience of each of the principles, which they then bring together in a collaboratively designed final project.

SD 513 Neurobiology and Learning

(3 credits) (Maser)
How does learning actually occur in humans? The growing knowledge from the neuro- and cognitive sciences provides a rich and universal framework to better understand the needs of our children and teens, including cognitive development as well as emotional and motivational systems of the brain. The goal of this course is to provide a foundation in the basic functions (anatomy, physiology and pharmacology) of the brain as they relate to human development and the neurobiology of learning. With this knowledge educators will have universal frameworks and developmental guidelines to understand the principles of learning as they apply to all children and youth. The final project will focus on learners’ personal research interests about learning and the brain.

SD 515 SelfDesign and Its Historical Antecedents

(3 credits) (Marshak)
Learners in this course explore the historical antecedents of SelfDesign and their relationship to SelfDesign. The course considers the 19th century transcendentalists (Emerson, Alcott), the early 20th century spiritual evolutionists (Aurobindo, Steiner, Inayat Khan, Krishnamurti, and later, Montessori), and the “free school” movement from A. S. Neill to Sudbury Valley. Learners examine each of these prior paradigms of human development/unfoldment and will explore their similarities and dissimilarities with SelfDesign.

SD 518 Languaging for Self-Empowerment

(3 credits) (Maser)
SelfDesign methodology has evolved from various domains, including insights from the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Learners in this course gain an understanding of and initial skills in basic NLP insights and techniques, and others (e.g. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT]), with a focus on using languaging skills in goal-setting, self-assessment and creating rapport with others. The course focuses on practical applications—theory, example, practice, and discussion of each technique—and on how languaging skills may be used to support self-empowerment in the service of personal and professional goals, as well as parenting and other relation-building activities.

SD 519 A SelfDesigning Path

(3 credits) (Meyer)
Learners in this course explore key elements of SelfDesign through class sessions and a thirteen-part multimedia workshop focusing on how the elements weave together to create a unique environment supporting learning through loving interaction. Exploration of personal beliefs, values, and family and cultural norms engage learners in articulating and clarifying their current values, beliefs, and practices about learning. Personal reflection through journaling will be combined with facilitated group interaction and discussion of the basic SelfDesign elements.

SD 520 Being Real in a Virtual World

(3 credits) (Meyer)
How can we effectively communicate with people we may see only intermittently online, or may never meet, and whose response to our communications cannot be measured through our traditional auditory or visual methods? Learners in this course explore the use of languaging techniques that override the efficient or distant tone virtual connection often creates, moving instead toward communication that develops, deepens, and enriches the relational qualities of our professional work.

SD 521 The Art of Deep Listening: Creating a Meaningful Relationship as a Consultant

(3 credits) (Meyer)
A key to excellence in consulting lies in developing our ability to listen deeply to the other, putting aside our assumptions, and continually finding a space of openness and curiosity. Our skills as authentic listeners are magnified when we hone our ability to listen. Learners in this course explore techniques that take us ‘beyond words’ and assist us in bringing forth the core needs and desires of those with whom we consult in a respectful, whole-hearted manner.

SD 522 Spirituality and the Developing Child: Recognizing and Nourishing the Spiritual Capacities of Children

(3 credits) (B. Luvmour)
Children of all ages have natural spiritual capacities. Critical issues that every adult faces are: 1) how to recognize the spiritual capacity of children as they grow and 2) how to support its optimal development. Learners in this course explore these issues, including the spiritual capacities of each stage in children’s development and how these capacities can be nourished by adults, and how children perceive love, truth, and the unknown.

SD 523 Children and Social Justice

(3 credits) (B. Luvmour)
Learners in this course explore the following topics as they relate to individual development and social justice: developing rightful place in which everything and everyone belongs; robust grasp of the connection between boundaries and personal strength; emotional development—trust in self, people, nature, and their mutual, reciprocal relatedness; interpersonal relationships—ecology, justice, and fairness; teen development—self-directed choice essential to democracy; power, freedom/responsibility, and the right to choose; and the development of reason.

SD 524 Positive Development in Children: Applications for Academic Excellence, Resolving Conflict, and Promoting Social Justice

(3 credits) (J. Luvmour and B. Luvmour)
Learners in this course delve deeply into how children organize their world at different ages of their lives. Based on the principle that capacities are innate and development occurs in relationship, learners examine evidence-based practices to understand the kinds of relationships that bring forth optimal well-being in children. These relationships create powerful opportunities to heal dysfunction, support academic excellence, and improve social relationships.

SD 525 Rites of Passage in Our Times: Understanding and Applying Rites of Passage in Education

(3 credits) (J. Luvmour and B. Luvmour)
Learners in this course explore the purpose and meaning of rites of passage; the relevance of rites of passage for children, education, families, social justice, and community and social well-being; the nature of luminal experience, why it is important, and how to create it; the relationship between rites of passage and child and adolescent development; the reciprocal growth and development of each person involved in rites of passage, including teachers, family members, and elders; and how to structure and lead rites of passage.

SD 526 Adult Development

(3 credits) (J. Luvmour)
Adult development involves systematic, qualitative changes in consciousness, human abilities, and behaviors as a result of interactions between internal and external environments. Learners in this course examine constancy and change in ways of knowing self and the world (social, cognitive, emotional, and physical development across ages and stages), and explore the literature on developmentally related change in perspective-taking, meaning-making, self-knowledge, action theory, and transformational learning.

SD 527 Mutual Development between Parent and Child

(3 credits) (J. Luvmour)
Humans develop in relationships, and children bring change. Everyone accepts that the adult influences the child, but few realize how much the child influences change in the parent. Learners in this course focus on how nurturing development in the child can lead to the emergence of new meaning, self-knowledge, and wisdom in the parent. The course focuses on the dynamics of multi-directional development in transactions between parents and their children and draws upon unique original research conducted by the instructor.

SD 528 Our Learning Ecology

(3 credits) (Maser)
Each person has a unique way of constructing their worldview as they grow, reflecting relational dynamics among diverse genetic, cultural and epigenetic influences. This can be considered akin to a learning ecology. In this course we will explore new concepts of brain development, intelligence and competency and how new insights of who we “really are”, fundamentally, can apply to ourselves and others. Perspectives for consideration will be personal as well as educational and also that of parent or caregiver to children and youth.

Learners in this course will also develop new understandings of learning and nurturing learning in others with the help of specific applications, including Brain Gain, Think Up!, Multiple Intelligences (Neurodiversity), insights from energy psychology, biology, HeartMath, spirituality, gaming, play and play therapy!

SD 530 Child and Adolescent Development

(3 credits) (J. Luvmour)
An overview of developmental theories including underlying paradigm assumptions, history, context, comparison of theories, differences between approaches (e.g., pathology vs well-being), and the antecedents to the holistic view of development.
Natural Learning Relationships—emergent developmental contextual view of whole-child development in optimal well-being. Development in relationship: emergent systems, contextual influences, developmental contextualism. How does perception (of self and world) change throughout childhood? What is optimal well-being for the child in each stage of childhood? How do children organize their world at different ages of their lives? Based on the principle that capacities are innate but development occurs in relationship, this section examines the kinds of relationships that bring forth optimal well-being in children. Using Natural Learning Relationships whole-child developmental model we will explore how humans are dynamic systems with a biological unfolding in a constant feedback loop with the environment.

Applications of developmental understanding to positive communication, community relationships, education, academic excellence, and family relationships. Contributions of children to school, community and social well-being; how to recognize and support these contributions; the effect of such support on the children.

SD 531 The Hermeneutics of Humor

(3 credits) (E. Decker)
Learners use comic tools to explore the links between how we interpret human experience, understand that experience, and act in consequence. Our first step is to challenge the certainties, the givens, and the “answers”—a task that has historically been the work of clowns, fools and tricksters. Borrowing their topsy-turvy perspective we can strengthen the funny bone and release the comic spirit, readying ourselves to face contraries with courage instead of certainty, becoming comic heroes.

SD 532 SelfDesigning: Creating and Realizing the Field of Infinite Possibilities

(3 credits) (D. Letourneau)
We are in nature and nature is in us. We are neurologically programmed to learn together and from each other and to exist, connect, and thrive in human communities. How can we know ourselves deeply and connect and contribute to our communities in meaningful ways? Starting with no-thing at the center of the SelfDesign Mandala, learners will explore SelfDesign’s unique ontology and epistemology and learn how to create and open the field of infinite possibilities, both within themselves and in the context of their own communities.

Building on cognitive science U Theory by Senge and Scharmer, Varela’s gestures in enhancing awareness, and Block’s structure of belonging in communities, learners will explore SelfDesign’s unique embodiment of sensing, presencing, and realizing through conversation, multimedia expression, SelfDesign models, improvisation, and art. Using powerful questions and finding their personal call-to-service in their own communities, learners will examine themselves and their communities as living systems and explore how we can re-imagine and transform fragmented communities, including virtual communities, into powerful and harmonious sources of ongoing connection.

SD 534 Catalytic Memes: The Transformative Power of the ‘New Story.’

(3 credits) (J. Taylor)
Our shared belief in a consensual reality is in fact created by a collective ‘story’ that gives common meaning to experience. Humans are story-makers, and we are responsible for the stories we create. This is good news!
In this course learners will examine several case studies to assess the impact and implications of a specific meme on its supporting culture. The ‘new story’ becomes the next ‘old story,’ and yet we are accountable for the enduring unintended consequences of our actions. What happens when stories contradict each other? What is the role of belief and certitude? Does the introjection of a non-linear possibility, a ‘new story,’ require direct experience?
Possible case studies for exploration in the course are these: Big Bang, Consciousness, and Evolution; The Calculus of Sustainability, Impermanence, and Intra-dependant Origination; System Overload: Anthropogenic Climate Change, Ecocide, Cultural Violence, Social Injustice, Ebola, and Mutually Assured Destruction; and Armageddon: The End of Progress and Growth.

SD 535 Design with Nature

(3 credits) (J. Taylor)
Nature-based design is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul. The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.
Learners in this course will explore nature-based design through an investigation of the following: biomimicry; biophilia; reconnecting—healing the body/mind split; natural learning; buildings and processes; terra-forming and geo-engineering; landscape restoration vs. the human-made landscape; and artificial life.

SD 536 Towards a New Story of Eldership, Dying, and Death

(3 credits) (J. Taylor)
We all will die eventually. What are the human stories, thoughts, and personal beliefs regarding the unavoidable outcome of living? What does contextual culture, spiritual practice, and post-modern science have to say about dying and death? Can we be ‘OK’ with our personal relationship to spirituality, dying, and death itself?
Learners in this course will explore the following: Ways of Experience: what do we know for sure; Preparing: the Expected Unknown; The Life Spiral—Who am I, when did I become ‘me’ and what is it that dies; Completion and the ‘Good Death;’ The Art of Losing: Grief, Praise, Mourning and Letting Go; Ancestors and the Departed; What Dreams May Come: the Life Between Lives; and Cultural Cross-currents and the Variety of Human Experience.

SD 537 Explorations in Collective Intelligence: Learning Communities and Creative Non-linear Possibility

(3 credits) (J. Taylor)
Learners in this course will engage, with the faculty mentor, in an experientially based research exploration into the role of collective intelligence in the ‘self-designed’ learning community. As a community of practice, learners will first survey the literature on learning cohorts, organizations, and collective intelligence in order to create a synoptic overview of current practice and experience. At the same time each learner will make individual observations from within our community of practice. The specifics of this process will be self-designed collectively by the class. Learners and the mentor will explore this question: how does the group’s collective intelligence best support the class to become self-observant while collectively exploring these issues in light of a desired outcome that depends on every member to creatively participate and grow in the context of a mutually agreed upon joint conclusion?

SD 538 Awareness through the Body

(3 credits) (M. MacLeod)
Learners explore the fundamentals of Awareness Through the Body (ATB) through reading, personal experience, and bringing what has been learned into a setting beyond the classroom. Readings are primarily from the book Awareness Through the Body by Aloka Marti and Joan Sala. Personal explorations of basic components of ATB take place initially through directed activities during scheduled class times. Learners deepen and extend these initial explorations through continued personal practice, reflection on that practice, and, for most, teaching, using, leading, and/or sharing ATB activities with children or adults and reporting on the results of that sharing. In lieu of using ATB with children or adults, learners may chose to write a research paper, create a video, or do some other creative project on some aspect of ATB.

By the conclusion of the course learners understand the goal and principles of ATB, have gained a sense of what makes an activity or exploration helpful towards fulfilling the goals of ATB, and have a feeling for how ATB serves a personal or professional purpose.

SD 539: Appreciative Inquiry Foundations Course

(3 credits) Leckie
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is recognized worldwide as a revolutionary process for high engagement positive change. In this Appreciative Inquiry foundations course, learners will discover how AI has been successfully used for organizational culture change, strategic planning, and community development. Learners will explore the theory and principles of AI as well as its research base. Learners will gain a deep and thorough grounding in AI practices and engage in an initial experience of conducting an appreciative inquiry, including crafting and conducting appreciative interviews, making meaning of narrative data, envisioning and enacting positive futures, drafting provocative propositions, and supporting innovation teams. By the end of the course, learners will have a focused plan for using AI to create positive change in their organization or community.

SD 540: Adult Development and Accessing Wisdom with Children

(3 credits) J. Luvmour
Humans develop in relationship and children bring change. Everyone accepts that the adult influences the child but few realize how much the child influences change in the adult.

This course is a focus on how nurturing development in the child leads to the emergence of new meaning and self-knowledge in the adult. A concentration in the dynamics of bi-directional development in transactions between the adult and child, we explore how adults resolve difficult developmental tasks from their own childhoods as a result of actively supplying the developmental imperatives of the child.

This course delves deeply into the difference between change and transformation (epistemological change). Based on the principle that capacities are innate and development occurs in relationship, we will examine the kinds of relationships that bring forth optimal well-being in children and transformation in adults.