About Michael

News, updated fall 2023

• I have now completed my PhD – yay! I began my PhD in 2017, at the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, Canada). My fieldwork research comprised a phenomenological exploration of learning experiences arising for a group of students/youth (ages 13-17 years). Such experiences arise in relation to schooling and beyond the purview of schooling, and it’s been very interesting to study and help reveal the nature as idiosyncratic and highly personal/personalized. If you are interested in knowing more about my research or reading a copy of my dissertation, please contact me: mmaser @ sfu.ca.

• In the past decade, I have been teaching ‘Neurobiology of Learning‘ in the Individual Masters (IMA) program with Antioch University, the (late) Transformative Learning Foundation, and the (late, great) SelfDesign Graduate Institute. This subject remains exciting for me and I am delighted to lead this course and work with interested students.

• This spring I began writing a column, Learn Your Way, for the (US-based) Prison Math Project newsletter, publ. 3x / year. The goal of the column is to encourage and support incarcerated men and women on their learning paths.

• An article of mine – a profile of my late colleague and education pioneer, Brent Cameron – was recently published in the Holistic Education Review. You can check it out and download the article, here: Profile of Brent Cameron.

Professional Background

Michael brings 30+ years as an innovative and award-winning educator, researcher, coach, workshop leader, tutor and author to his learning consulting services. Frustrated as a classroom-based teacher, Michael joined SelfDesign Learning Foundation in 1992, helping to found and direct the award-winning, innovative, SelfDesign and Virtual High Learning Communities (2002 and 1993, respectively). In 2006, Michael received a Prime Minister’s Award for teaching excellence and an award of merit from the BC Ministry of Education for his work in helping launch and grow SelfDesign.

Michael leads a poster session on SelfDesign Learning at Learning and the Brain Society conference, San Francisco

Michael’s special focus as an educator has been nurturing and advocating personalized, holistic learning and and he is committed to serving the emotional wellness and balance of clients, learners and families. From 2002 – 2017 Michael was  engaged in learning consulting, research and advisory work to SelfDesign Learning Community (BC Canada), which he helped co-found. Michael is currently an adjunct faculty member with Antioch University’s Individualized Masters program (IMA), (formerly the SelfDesign Graduate Institute) and he is an educator on Outschool.com.

Michael presented ‘What’s Your Story?’ at TEDx-Nelson, in 2012

In his career Michael has contributed to the development of engaging and effective learning communities, he has lead many professional workshops and presentations on ‘Personalizing Learning’ and ‘Neurobiology and Learning’, and he has created many curricular and learning resources.

Professional Summary


  • (current) Adjunct Faculty, Antioch University, Individual Masters Program (IMA); formerly SelfDesign Graduate Institute): course instructor: Neurobiology of Learning; Communication Strategies for Empowerment; Personalizing Learning (since 2012)
  • SelfDesign Learning and Leadership (2002 – 2019)
  • Learning Consultant / Educator / Instructor / Coach (since 1987)
  • SelfDesign Special Education Consultant
  • Outschool (science, DIY, ‘Genius Hour’ courses; since 2018)

Formal Education

  • PhD – SFU, 2023; Faculty of Education; Dissertation title: ‘Insight-Out: A phenomenological exploration of the nature and appearance of learning’
  • MA – SFU, 1997; Faculty of Education
  • BEd – Queen’s, 1987; Science and English specialization
  • BA – Ryerson, 1985; Journalism
  • BSc – UBC, 1981; Geology and Chemistry
  • ESL (1990); Special Education (1987, 2014)

Recent Professional Development

  • Various Research, Writing & Data-Management workshops – SFU
  • MITACS research project; Evaluating Personal Ecolography survey instruments (2020-2021; SFU) 
  • DIR Floortime (certification, level 1; 2015)
  • ‘EdWeb’ webinars – Personalized Learning (x10), Special Education (x7), Gamification (x6), Neurobiological Learning (x4), Data Use (x8); (2017-15)
  • ‘Gamification’ MOOC (2015, Wharton School, Penn State University)
  • SelfDesign Special Education Training  (2014)
  • Interpersonal Neurobiology, 4 courses, Mindsight Institute, UCLA (2012)
  • Learning through technology – multiple workshops, etc. (ongoing)

Professional Memberships

  • BC College of Teachers (lifetime certification)
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
  • Learning and the Brain Society (Society now defunct)
  • International Coaching Federation member 2004 – 2014)


  • PhD – 2023; Simon Fraser University
  • Adjunct Faculty course instructor, ‘Neurobiology of Learning’; ‘Languaging for Empowerment’; ‘Personalizing Learning’; Antioch University; (formerly, SelfDesign Graduate Institute) (2016 – 2021)
  • MITACS research project; Evaluating Personal Ecolography survey instruments (2020-2021; SFU) 
  • Co-founder, executive leadership and educator: SelfDesign Learning Community, BC (2002-2017)
  • Founder, Director: Surpass Leadership Development Camp for youth (2007-2017)
  • Author: SelfDesign Essential Elements course (2016)
  • Personal Ecolography – an original, lifestyle (‘element’) assessment tool
  • Founder, Choose News advocacy project, seeking to reduce violent content of TV and radio news, to help protect children’s mental health (www.choosenews.org); started 2015
  • Author: Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want, Starting Now, (2012)
  • MA thesis: Virtual High, Toward an Ecology of Being (1997, SFU)
  • Co-founder, ongoing executive leadership and educator: Virtual High Learning Community, BC (1993-1997)


  • SFU Graduate Fellowship (2021)
  • Mitacs research and training award (2020)
  • Prime Ministers Award (Canadian Federal Government), for SelfDesign Learning (2006)
  • Special Recognition for Contribution to Education (BC Ministry of Education), for SelfDesign Learning (2006)
Michael receives a Special Merit award from BC Premier Gordon Campbell, in conjunction with Prime Ministers award, with SelfDesign colleagues Brent Cameron and Kathleen Forsythe (2007).

Professional Interests

  • Personalized, holistic learning
  • Special Education – reaching and engaging all learners, empowering parents
  • Sustainability learning
  • DIY / Maker’s movements
  • Gamifying learning
  • Languaging for empowerment (referencing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Neuro-linguistics and other modalities)
  • Personal empowerment and wellness
  • Optimizing learning through technology and virtual learning environments
  • Curriculum development (particularly oriented to optimizing learning and meaningful learner engagement; sustainability-oriented modules)
  • Stress reduction, especially in children and youth

Work Summary

Educational Consulting, Teaching, Leadership 

  • Adjunct Faculty – Antioch University, Individual Masters program (IMA), formerly SelfDesign Graduate Institute, 2012-present, teaching: 
    Neurobiology and Learning (Course and Pro-D workshop);
    Languaging for Self-Empowerment; Personalizing Learning
  • Outschool instructor (Science, DIY, ‘Genius Hour’ courses; since 2018)
  • Co-founder, Executive Coordinator – SelfDesign Learning Community (BC), 2002-2017
  • Co-founder, Learning Consultant: SelfDesign Learning Community & SelfDesign, 2002-2017
  • Founder, Director: Surpass leadership camp for teens 13-17 years (BC), 2007 – 2017
  • Course Mentor-Instructor: SelfDesign High, 2008-2017
  • Co-founder, Director, Learning Consultant: Virtual High Learning Community (Vancouver), 1993-1997
  • Conventional classroom teacher (Ontario, Colombia, Vancouver), 1988 – 1991
  • Dreaming Dragon Consulting: Coaching, Mentoring Clients, 1993-present
  • Co-instructor: Natural Learning course, SFU Faculty of Ed., 1996-1998
  • Consultant: Vision Home & Community Program (Colorado), 2000
  • ESL teaching, domestic and abroad (Colombia), 1988-91
  • Public school teaching, highschool, Ontario, 1997-98

Research-Related Experiences

  • 2022-2023: PhD research: Phenomenological-qualitative research investigation
  • 2020-2021: MITACS research project: Personal Ecolographic surveying to assist student learning
  • 2018: RA – HEAL program, SFU; supervisor = Stephen Smith, Fac. of Ed.
  • 2012 – 2017: Public Affairs and client-surveying; SelfDesign Learning Community (BC Independent School)
  • 1993 – 2018: Curriculum development (courseware): Neurobiology & learning, Test Preparation, Optimizing Learning, various science & ecology modules
  • 2015-2018: Choose News advocacy project to reduce violent content of TV & Radio news, to better protect children’s mental health
  • 1987 – 2018: Journalism and contract writing (mainstream media, private clients)
  • 1995- 1997: M.A. thesis, SFU, Faculty of Education
  • 1981 – 1986: Geological consulting
  • 1980 – 1981: B.Sc. thesis: Faculty of Geology, UBC


  • Volunteer Mentor: Cool School (Gibsons BC), 2015 – 2023
  • Voluntary Board service: Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival, 2004-2019 Coast Cultural (Arts) Alliance, 2003-2006; Sunshine Coast Recycling Society (Treasurer), 2001-2004
  • Blue Energy Canada (Communications & Research, 1997 – 2004)
  • Geologist, 1976-1983

Writing & Publications

  • (in press) book chapter: ‘Personalized Learning’ in ‘Implementing Transformative Student-Centred Learning Practices’
  • journal article: ‘Personal Ecolography surveying to better personalize pedagogy’; Holistic Education Review (fall 2021)
  • Where the sidewalk ends: Reanimating relationality with the natural world on the modern campus; Journal of Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology; 32 (2); pp 13-16 (2021)
  • Machines can’t personalize education; only people can do that. The Conversation (May 2021) 
  • Seeking to Engage.  SFU Educational Review (Fall 2020)
  • Learning Your Way (blog, this site; since 2005)
  • SelfDesign Essential Elements course for SelfDesign Graduate Institute (2016)
  • Gold Mad (novel published 2013, MW Books; see goldmad.ca)
  • Learn Your Way! (book published in 2012, SelfDesign Learning Systems Inc.)
  • Numerous resource modules for learners to assist with stress reduction, testing, optimizing learning, communication, personal ecology, SelfDesigning
  • Georgia Straight (feature writer, 20 articles, 1997-2002; education, health and natural resource focus)
  • Vancouver Sun (11 Op-Ed columns, education focus, 1993-2012)
  • News reporting: Ottawa Citizen, Science Dimension magazine, Canadian Science News Service (numerous articles)
  • Blue Energy Canada Inc. (Communications Director, 1997 – 2006)
  • Coast Garibaldi Health Services (Eat Up food guide)
  • Western Canada Wilderness Committee (3 special reports)
  • Carleton Productions (documentary scriptwriter, “The Right To Be You” series)
  • BSc thesis (1981, Geology, UBC)

On the side, I …

Play guitar and sing, stay fit through hiking, skiing, swimming, garden, ‘shroom (I’m a mycophile!), DIY-it-up, really enjoy being a parent, dream big, contribute to and volunteer in my community, live with dogs, advocate for environmental sustainability and socially progressive policies.

Mentors along the way:

The following is a list of the inspirational people whose books and ideas, conversations and memes have inspired me: Brent Cameron, Mac Freeman, Johann Goethe, Richard Hanson, John Holt, Jean Houston, Edith Cobb, Nel Noddings, Lee Pulos, Carl Rogers, Robert Root-Bernstein, Tim Galwey, Rumi, Gregory Cajete (Tewa), Daniel Siegel, Rick Hanson, Temple Grandin, Iain McGilchrist, my colleagues in SelfDesign, the many learners, children, young people and parents I have met and who, in turn, have nurtured much learning in my heart. And especially my wife Lisa and my daughter Robin.


Michael with a group of teens attending ‘Surpass‘, a week-long leadership camp/program Michael began in 2007 on the Sunshine Coast, BC. It was a wonderful experience!