M.A. in SelfDesign: Post-Modern Schools and Integral Learning

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.

Required Courses

PM 500 History of Schooling through Analysis of Consciousness and the Qualities of Post-Modern Schools

(3 credits)
Learners explore pre-modern, modern, and post-modern forms of education and how each of these forms corresponds with a particular kind of consciousness, as described by the Spiral Dynamics model and by Jean Gebser. They examine the dominant elements in the modernist school paradigm and consider how these elements control public education today. Then learners investigate the paradigm of post-modern education in terms of its consciousness and qualities and will explore its various forms.

PM 501 Envisioning and Founding a Post-Modern School

(3 credits)
Learners in this course explore post-modern consciousness and values and consider how these can be expressed through the structure and culture of a post-modern school. They articulate their own personal vision of post-modern schooling and develop key documents that help to define their school-to-be: mission statement, statement of philosophy re the process of human development, the process of learning, and the role of curriculum, pedagogy, teachers, and physical environment.

PM 502 Leading and Sustaining a Successful Post-Modern School

(3 credits)
Learners in this course explore the predictable challenges likely in leading and sustaining a post-modern school. The course focuses on issues of school administration and management; the school’s identity in its community; professional development of adults working in the school; recruitment of families and learners; tuition and fund raising issues; engagement of community partners and allies; parental engagement in the life of the school; and crisis management.[/tab]

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.

PM 600 Master’s Project/Thesis in Post-Modern Education

(6 credits)
The Master’s Project/Thesis is one the following: (1) develop a plan for a post-modern school and begin to create it; (2) envision an integral learning form and begin to create it; (3) demonstrate effective preparation to teach in a post-modern school; (4) engage in significant original research in post-modern education or integral learning and complete a substantial written thesis.


NOTE: In addition to PM electives, SD electives 510–536 are open to all Institute learners.

PM 510 Starting and Sustaining a Democratic School

(3 credits) (Mercogliano)
Learners gain preparation both for establishing a democratic school and navigating through the inevitable rough patches in the road as the school works to create a positive culture and a sustainable financial foundation. Part I of the course clarifies and deepens the learners’ understanding of the democratic education model and helps the learners to craft a coherent vision of the school they wish to found. Part II addresses the nuts and bolts of starting a school.

PM 511 Post-Modern Independent School Start-Up

(3 credits) (Smith)
Learners in this course explore the necessary steps to develop and implement a successful independent, post-modern school. The course begins with an exploration of school vision and then examines how the key components of educational start-ups—Vision, Community, Board, Team, Funding—interact to provide focus and means towards the creation of a new educational program. Learners also investigate the pertinent legal requirements.

PM 512 Leading and Sustaining an Independent Post-Modern High School

(3 credits) (Kirkpatrick)
Learners in this course explore the complex ecology of leadership and sustenance required to lead a creative, successful independent post-modern high school. Topics for exploration include: faculty hiring, development, and supervision; board relationships; program structuring and curriculum development; program assessment; student recruitment and retention; fundraising; school facilities; and creating and leading a school culture and community that learns, evolves, and innovates.

PM 513 The Joys and Sorrows of Leading a Post-Modern School

(3 credits) (Freedman)
Learners in this course explore many aspects of starting and sustaining a post-modern school through first-hand accounts. Learners read and reflect on school leaders’ narratives regarding their experiences, and observe and speak with school leaders about their work. Particular emphasis will be placed on the visionary qualities of school leaders and the extreme highs and lows associated with the responsibilities and opportunities of leading a school community towards a unique post-modern vision.

PM 519 Integral Education: Theory and Practice

(3 credits) (Smith)
Learners explore the theoretical framework and the practical components of an Integral Education program founded on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo. The course focuses on “the principles of true teaching” and “Free Progress education.” Given these conceptual contexts, learners consider the relationships between theory and practice, the teacher and the student, and teaching and learning. Learners investigate several examples of Integral Education schools.

PM 520 Adolescence as an Evolutionary Stage for Humanity

(3 credits) (Marshak)
Learners in this course explore the theory that adolescence is a radically new developmental stage that has emerged only in the past 100 years. Learners investigate the invention of the concept of adolescence, the social and cultural developments that allowed adolescence to emerge as a distinct stage of human development, and the developmental attributes of adolescent identity and experience. They also study adolescent/youth culture and the potential of adolescence in furthering the evolution of our species.

PM 522 Integrated Leadership for a Just and Sustainable World

(3 credits) (Berg)
Learners explore paths to holistic, integrated, and authentic leadership. Learners experience techniques for holistic and authentic leadership that integrate several philosophies, including authentic, contextual, holistic, and values-based leadership with their authentic self. Learners explore leadership examples and theories from cultures all over the world (i.e. aboriginal, Chinese philosophy, First Nations, Taoist, transformational, and tribal) and their own lives.

PM 523 Holistic Health for Adolescents—an Ecological View: Empowering Youth through Understanding

(3 credits) (Berg)
Learners explore the dynamics of ecological systems and how an ecological view of adolescent health leads to empowerment and lasting change. Learners also explore Western and Non-Western philosophies of health and medicine as these relate to an ecological view. The emphasis is on techniques and lessons to empower adolescents to take charge of their health and the health of the ecologies in which they live.

PM 524 Poetry Reading and Writing: The Reconnected Body, Heart, and Mind

(3 credits) (Soter)
Learners in this course engage in reading and writing poetry, understanding how poetry connects us through its kinesthetic qualities, and working with poetry in ways that move us to new spaces and places. Learners explore the ways that poetry acts as a wonderful resource for connecting with others as well as connecting self to life in all its forms.

PM 525 Language as a Field of Energy in Education, Media, and Medical Settings

(3 credits) (Soter)
Learners explore language as an energy-field, as a vibrational field that reflects thought as well as influences it. Unexamined language use is like Dewey’s unreflective thought, yet language can be changed to ultimately influence thought. Learners examine language as a resonant field with powerful implications for social, political, and personal transformation.

PM 526 Language as a Field of Energy for Self-Growth

(3 credits) (Soter)
Learners explore language as an energy-field, as a vibrational field with implications for self-growth. Learners undertake self-study of personal linguistic habits and patterns as well as those within their families and social networks. Learners examine their own linguistic habits as windows to mental and emotional habits and then use language to create new linguistic, mental, and emotional patterns of behavior for self-growth.

PM 527: Making Learning Visible: Documentation and the Infant, Toddler, and Preschool Municipality Schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy

(3 credits) (Iorio)
Learners will read and discuss the history and pedagogies of the infant, toddler, and preschool municipality schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. This course focuses on the practice of documentation where teachers record theories, actions, conversations, memories, and experiences of children in order to build curriculum. Learners will actively engage with documentation by practicing deep listening and observing of children, building documentation panels, and developing teacher responses.

PM 528: Child-Adult Conversations as Aesthetic Experiences

(3 credits) (Iorio)
What happens when teachers consider their conversation with children as aesthetic experiences? The course examines a working theory where child-adult conversations are framed through aesthetic experience research. Learners will study theories regarding aesthetic experience, consider the roles of power and relationships within these conversations, review conversation data, and further develop theories about child-adult conversations.

PM 529: Rethinking Early Childhood Education

(3 credits) (Iorio)
Often early childhood is equated with traditional conceptions of practices like thematic units, circle time, and calendar, never trusting children as capable to think beyond simplistic concepts or consider complex theories. This course focuses on early childhood practices founded in social justice, furthering curiosity and empathy, engaging in advocacy and activism, and developing an awareness of the local and global communities.

PM 530: Educating the Whole Child

(3 credits) (Rudge)
This course engages learners in examining the philosophical foundations of holistic education and the pedagogical practices of schools and individual teachers that follow a holistic orientation to education. Learners will critically examine holistic pedagogical approaches, reflect upon competitive views of pedagogy, and explore curricular possibilities for implementing an educational approach to teaching the whole child.

PM 531: Mindful and Relational Teaching: Educating for a Culture of Peace

(3 credits) (Rudge)
This course deepens learners’ awareness of how they interact with others as well as expands their feelings of compassion, kindness, and love, so that they can comprehend human nature in an open and inclusive manner. Learners engage in contemplative and self-reflective practices as well as inquiry-based learning. Learners develop and carry out a compassionate action research project in which they will apply what they have learned in the course.

PM 532 Exploring The Deep Structure of Pedagogy

(3 credits) (Simpson)  
Learners in this course will engage in an introspective journey of our understanding of the notion of pedagogy and how pedagogy informs the teacher-student/learner relationship. Pedagogy is defined in various ways from the Greek origin of the word, which translates “to walk beside the child” to the more recent Webster’s definition, “the art of teaching.”

Most of us come to this work as educators because we have a disposition to teach. But what do we mean by “teach” and how do we define ourselves as “teachers?” We will examine the notion of pedagogy from the perspective of several foundational education pioneers, including Locke, Rousseau, Dewey, Kohlberg, Vygotsky, and Gagne. We will identify our personal definition of pedagogy and how our understanding defines our relationship with our learners. We will examine common archetypes of teachers as well as the spiritual component to teaching.

PM 533 Disability and Self-Determination

(3 credits) (Simpson)
Learners in this course will explore the construction of the concept of disability in relation to education in their own society, drawing from the literature which defines disability as being constructed personally, medically and/or socioculturally. For example, McDermott and Varenne explain that Learning Disability is not something we would recognize on our own; rather “it takes institutional collusion to validate our flaws against cultural norms.” We will examine the research on the success of learning environments (home, school, community) that support self-determination and self-empowerment in contrast to learning environments that create learned helplessness. We will examine the work of Agran, Wehmeyer, Deci and Ryan and others who have done extensive research in disability and self-determination to determine and identify best practices for learner autonomy and support for teachers and mentors working with students labeled as disabled.

PM 534 Emergent Teaching: Educating for Creativity, Significance, and Transformation

(3 credits) Crowell 
Learners in this this course will engage in a journey toward responsive learning, where knowledge becomes connected to who we are as human beings—not just intellectual capacities but our capacity for altruistic concern, selfless service, collaborative action, and creative wisdom.

The sciences of complexity, chaos, and cognitive constructive theory share some common assumptions that include an emphasis on holistic relationships, dynamical change, and emerging patterns of organization. These themes are particularly relevant to discussions that deal with teaching the whole person, new understandings of process, project-based learning, transformative learning, incorporating story and narrative, and building community in the classroom.     There is a resonance with wisdom traditions that have informed human history for millennia and remain with us as guides and reminders of our innate wisdom.

Learners in this course will explore some of the key foundational principles of emergent systems, with an emphasis on the importance of connectedness, relatedness, dynamic change and process in the context of teaching and learning. This will not be merely a scientific or abstract study, but rather a narrative inquiry into creative emergence and transformation based on stories and experience. The course will highlight how the development of community as an open, adaptive, self-organizing system can enhance learning. Our exploration will expand the notion of context to include issues outside the classroom and inside the person.The course will also address the holistic, embodied nature of the learning process and the importance of the arts in constructing meaning.


PM 535 Earth Charter Pedagogy: A Values-Based Approach to Sustainable Well-Being, Ecological Integrity, and Social Justice

(3 credits) (Crowell)
Learners in this course will gain an introduction to the vision and substance of the Earth Charter (EC) and how it can be incorporated into schools and classrooms as a foundation for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). It will focus on content and pedagogy, as well as the creation of an EC culture where students experience the values and ethical dimensions of sustainability. The Earth Charter provides a transformative force and offers an essential foundation for sustainability. Perhaps the most inclusive international document in history, it was created “…to promote the transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy and a culture of peace.”

This course is about more than sustainable development. We will look holistically at what it means for an individual or a community of learners to act from a place of understanding, compassion, and love; to understand nature from a perspective of biophilia, deep connection, and as one source of our identity; to work in local and global communities to create an inclusive society that is pluralistic and just; and to open up spaces for democratic participation based on non-violence and open-hearted peace. The assumptions of interconnection and universal responsibility are applied to multiple contexts and the flourishing and thrival of the human spirit are applied to an exploration of well-being, service, and spiritual wisdom.

PM 536 Holistic Education: An Integrative Paradigm for Learning, Knowing, and Being

(3 credits) (Crowell)
In the field of holistic health there are six interactive elements identified that contribute to the well-being and health of an individual. They include the mental, emotional, social, physical, environmental, and spiritual conditions of life. These elements have been affirmed within the mainstream medical community even though they are not universally applied. If we explore the current research in the neurosciences, cognitive theory, social-psychology, and learning it is clear that these categories can be applied to education. Importantly, these holistic elements are not isolated but are continually interacting together to create an integrative view of a living organism.

This vision is part of a paradigmatic change leading not to just an alternative cultural narrative, but to a new way of living and being. Holistic Education represents not just another way of teaching, and it is not just an extension of progressive education models. It is a fundamentally alternative perception of the world and within that perception comes the challenge to think, act, and live differently.

Learners in this course will explore this new mapping of reality from the implications of enactive and embodied processes of learning to new research methodologies to new understandings of curriculum, schooling, and organizations.

PM 537 Creating School Culture: Natural Learning Relationships, Whole-Child Development, School Culture, and Working with Parents

(3 credits) J. Luvmour
The school culture is part of our student’s learning experience. Creating a school culture of meaning and inspiration requires vision that unifies faculty, students and parents around a common mission. A cornerstone of success is a safe and caring environment, shared values and relational trust, a powerful pedagogy and curriculum, high student motivation and engagement, a professional faculty culture, and effective partnerships with families and the community.

Trust and collaboration are mutually reinforcing. This course addresses compelling contemporary issues for today’s educators and administration, with skills and training that will meaningfully enhance and add significant value to any educator’s knowledge base. Students’ achievement and character are shaped by the culture around them. The course includes the following foci:

Educational environment: creating your educational community that is inspired with meaning; relationship in education: the context of learning; classroom environments that inspire and promote meaning in each student; school environments that support well-being in the child; conflict resolution and responses that restore relationship
Natural Learning Relationships: nurturing optimal well-being of the whole-child; academic excellence and child development in the classroom; how to support emotional intelligence at every age
Teacher Development: collegial team building of common goals and common values; developing a culture of shared belief that we are a part of something great; respectful interactions that build trust and implement change; building culturally responsive school environments
Parent-teacher relationships: parent-teacher relationships and communication for student success; effective collaboration with parents to support students’ learning; parent education and building a bridge between home and school; guidelines for parent in-classroom participation

PM 538: Personalized Learning

(3 credit) M. Maser
Personalizing Learning is a hallmark of educational change throughout North America, characterized by different forms and approaches and various uses of technology.

In this course learners will explore various applications of Personalized Learning (PL) in coaching and educational settings, and they will deepen their own experiences of PL from the perspective of learner, educator, and administrator. In praxis, they will work individually and collaboratively with course colleagues designing and reviewing applications of PL in a learning community setting, following from which they will reflect on their results as they seek to better understand where PL is most vibrant and ‘alive’, personally and professionally.