The overarching goal throughout my work-life has been to help people and organizations learn, unlearn and transform to sustainably realize their full potential. Currently, I do this through research and teaching in the field of adult education and organizational development. Prior work in education and leadership roles with innovative NGOs, universities, and for-profit organizations has taken me to 20+ countries with longer stations in Canada, France, USA, Ecuador, and most recently Germany, where I currently live, work and play.

Teaching & Research

My research and teaching is informed by multiple disciplinary perspectives and centers around the intersection of life course transitions, inter- and transnational mobility, and societal transformation. In particular, I am interested in the learning of adults in formal and informal contexts, the relationship between mobility and migration in discourses and everyday practices, as well as community and organizational change in the context of sustainable development. My pedagogy is grounded in an appreciation of the personal experience as a door to inquisitive learning and in the need to nurture creative irritation and discomfort as key to reflection, (un)learning, and transformation.

In my role as Assistant Professor (CLTA) at Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, I develop and teach graduate and upper year undergradate courses and seminars on

  • Adult education in the context of migration and mobility (B.A.)
  • Organizational development and social responsibility (B.A.)
  • Transitions in the life course and lifelong learning (B.A.)
  • Non-Western perspectives on the learning of adults (B.A.)
  • Informal learning from a pragmatist and practice theory perspective (M.A.)
  • Community development and learning spaces (M.A.)
  • Theories in Education (M.A., guest lecture)
  • Researching Transitions (M.A., guest lecture)

Previously, with Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo in Canada, I developed curricula for community-engaged and work-integrated learning, as well as provided field instruction for Bachelor of Social Work students. Other teaching experience includes experiential outdoor education in Canada, physiotherapy instruction in Ecuador, computer skills training in a women's prison, and workplace learning design in NGO and for-profit organizations.


As part of my PhD studies, I investigate learning and transformation processes associated with migration to Canada in adulthood. This research is embedded in the interdisciplinary research group Doing Transitions*, hosted by Frankfurt University and the University of Tübingen. In this research perspective, transitions are seen as shaped and produced by social practices within an interrelating nexus of discourses, institutional regulation and individual forms of learning and coping. Other ongoing research projects include inquiry-based learning in undergraduade education and community development from a critical pedagogy perspective.

* More information on the Doing Transitions research program can be found here.

Publications and conference presentations

  • Bernhard, M. (in press). Boundary experiences in Canada: ‘Doing Migration’ and the role of adult education. Der Pädagogische Blick.
  • Bernhard, M. & Van Daele, C. (in press). Practice architecture in community development: Mapping traditions in learning and action. Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education.
  • Hof, C. & Bernhard, M. (2022). Übergänge als Anlass für Lernprozesse. In S. Andresen, P. Bauer, B. Stauber, & A. Walther (Hrsg.), Doing Transitions – die Hervorbringung von Übergängen im Lebenslauf: Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 68. Beiheft (S. 181–194).
  • Learning by doing migration: Temporal dimensions of life course transitions. Paper presented at the 12th International Researching Work & Learning Conference (RWL12) at the University of Toronto (OISE), themed 'Work, Learning & Social Change', July 2022.
  • Experience and transitions: A relational perspective on migration in adulthood. Paper presented with the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education (CASAE) at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Conference theme: 'Transitions', May 2022
  • Encountering a new rulebook: Migrant engagement with the “Canadian experience” discourse. Paper presented at the ESREA conference on ‘Encountering the other: biographies, spaces and relationships in adult education’, March 2022. 
  • The messy crossings of career and national boundaries in adulthood. Paper presented at the annual congress of the German Society for Education (DGfE), March 2022, with E. Thévenot.


I approach leadership from a 'stewardship' (Peter Block) perspective, striving to nurture conditions for team members to find autonomy, mastery, and purpose in their work. For over 20 years, I have created and led programs in education, community development, social services, and active travel. While the sectors may have varied, the focus on building learning organizations (Peter Senge) has remained a constant. I currently offer support and guidance in organizational development, organizational learning and knowledge management through Akotor.

Go to Akotor


Feel free to contact me using this form.