About Michael

News, 2024-2023

• NEWS, Winter 2024: I just learned my PhD dissertation has been nominated for a ‘Convocation Medal’ in the Faculty of Education, SFU!

I completed my PhD in the latter half of 2023 (yay!) in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, Canada). My dissertation, entitled ‘Insight-Out: A phenomenological exploration of the nature and appearance of learning,‘ reflected my life-and-career-long interest in the nature of human learning. Combining an extensive literature review (into learning), a study of autobiography and a fieldwork research project, I confirmed that human learning is much more subjective and personalized than conventionally recognized in education and psychology. Here is a link to my dissertation; please contact me: michaelrmaser @ gmail.com if you are interested in knowing more about my research. I am now embarking on presenting and extending my PhD research via an online format, noted on this website through the tab: Learn Your Way – PhD Project.

• For the past decade, I have been teaching ‘Neurobiology and 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 (new course starting in March 2024). I recently became a member of the Institute of Neuroscience and Neurotechnology at Simon Fraser University (BC Canada).

Recent Publications (2024): An article of mine reflecting my PhD research (Your story, your life, your learning) has been published in the Journal of Holistic and Contemplative Education, as well as an article (Learning is Personal) in Tipping Points magazine serving the Alliance for Self-Directed Education; a book chapter of mine on Personalized Learning has also been accepted for publication this spring.

• My wife and I began helping Ukrainian refugees arriving in our region improve their English language skills in 2022. We continue to teach adults in-person and also online. This is really satisfying to do and our clients are diligent and so grateful for this help. Slava Ukraini!

• In spring 2023 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.

• Starting in 2023 I have been contracted to lead what I call ‘barefoot walks’ into the forest adjacent to SFU’s Burnaby campus. The walks are designed to nurture knowledge and connectivity to the flora and fauna of the remarkable mountaintop forest which holds so many secrets to sustainability if we take the time to truly engage with this environment. I previously led many such walks and activities for children, youth and families. An article of mine focusing on this, ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends,’ was published in 2021 in the Journal of Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology (Vol. 32, no. 2; pp 13-16). Two upcoming walks are scheduled for May 2024.

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 – 2017)
  • Learning Consultant / Educator / Instructor / Coach (1987 – present)
  • SelfDesign Special Education Consultant (2013 – 2017)
  • 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 – Metropolitan Uni. (formerly 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 (x15), Special Education (x10), Gamification, Neurobiological Learning, Data Use; (2015 – present)
  • ‘Gamification’ MOOC (2015, Wharton School, Penn State University)
  • SelfDesign Special Education Training  (2014)
  • Interpersonal Neurobiology, 4 courses, Mindsight Institute, UCLA (2012)

Professional Memberships

  • BC College of Teachers (lifetime certification)
  • Institute of Neuroscience and Neurotechnology (Simon Fraser University)
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
  • Learning and the Brain Society (2008 – 2018; now defunct)
  • International Coaching Federation member 2004 – 2014)


  • PhD – 2023; Simon Fraser University; dissertation title: Insight-out: A phenomenological exploration of the nature and appearance of learning
  • 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)


  • Nominated: SFU Convocation Medal (2024)
  • 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

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 led from 2007-2017 on the Sunshine Coast, BC. It was a wonderful experience!