Melanie McBride

I am a Toronto-based educator, researcher-practitioner, adjunct professor (Toronto Metropolitan University), and co-principal investigator on several major research projects investigating the material contingencies of informal learning and making in physically embodied, sensory, and multimodal domains of skilled practice.

Research Program

My research program centres on the pedagogical affordances of materials, environments, and tools for informal learning and making in independent domains of practice, which contribute to the development of physically embodied, multimodal, and tacit knowledge. More critically, my work examines how materially-contingent and physically embodied subjects such as arts, physical education, and trades, have literally gone missing-in-action from today’s screen-biased, info-centric paradigms of ‘content delivery’ that are underwritten by outdated and didactic models of teaching-as-transmission. I argue that this emphasis on indirectly acquired and ‘info-centric’ knowledge that are characteristic of ‘fast’ credentialing schemes not only short-changes learners and learning, but also de-skills teachers and teaching by prioritizing outcomes and products (i.e., certifications, credits, and credentials) over practice and process (i.e., learning, competence, and skill).

Paradoxically, while digital culture is often touted as “democratizing” knowledge,  DIY forums more often function to gate-keep and police whose knowledge, skills, literacies, or identity are legitimized or de-legitimized. Moreover, rather than providing an independent alternative to institutional education, many ostensibly ‘indie’ online learning environments are actually far less inclusive or equitable than their institutional counterparts. This presents a dilemma for learners and independent practitioners who seek access to knowledge that is circulated within independent communities of practice and that are either explicitly, or implicitly, entangled in the political, personal, or business interests of dominant networks of interest within those spaces.

To address these issues, myself and my colleagues are mobilizing knowledge from our ongoing research on informal learning in DIY cultures to develop a pedagogical tool-kit that emphasizes (actually) inclusive, non-didactic, practice-based pedagogy and formative assessments that are specific multimodal, tacit, and physically embodied ways of knowing with-and-through materials, environments, and skilled practices. Please see my publications and speaking/workshop pages for further background on my research contributions.


I have a B.A. (Specialist) in English literature from the University of Toronto, a B.Ed. (Intermediate/Secondary) from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto), and an M.A. and Ph.D. from York University’s joint program in Communications and Culture.  After completing my doctorate, I was awarded a Post-doctoral Fellowship from the Faculty of Education, York University to investigate the missing modality of scent from text-bound curricula. My current research program focuses on the pedagogical affordances of ‘missing modalities and materials’ from text-bound paradigms of educating. My training in my parent disciplines strongly informs the basis of my current research program, which is focused on the pedagogical affordances of ‘missing modalities and materials’ from text-bound paradigms of educating. See educational qualifications below for further detail. 

Knowledge Mobilization

My Masterclass for The International Cool Climate Wine Symposium (ICCWS). Brock University.

In addition to my studies and research, I have many decades of professional speaking experience prior that includes both peer-reviewed academic conferences and colloquia as well as industry events, and guest lectures and workshops locally and internationally. I have led materials-centred Master Classes and workshops on sourcing and working with aromatic materials in collaboration with Brock University’s International Cool Climate Wine Symposium, The Independent Wine Education Guild (IWEG), The Canadian Association of Sommeliers (CAPS), Soif Bar à vin, and as an invited guest-speaker for wine education certification courses at George Brown’s Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts (CHCA). My ideas and perspectives are cited in scholarly articles and books, national media, and industry-facing blogsPlease see my speaking page for further detail or visit my contact page for inquiries related to aroma-specific projects and consultation. 

The Aroma Lab 

Aroma Inquiry Lab, Metropolitan University, photo Melanie McBride.

In 2014, I contributed a novel methodology intended to address the ‘missing modality’ of scent and the senses to a proposal that resulted in a $2.2 million grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation that lead to the founding of the Responsive Ecologies Lab (RE/Lab) at Toronto Metropolitan University.

I conceptualized the Aroma Inquiry Lab (part of the RE/Lab) as a multi-purpose space for applied research and workshops centred on tacit, inquiry-based learning ‘with and through’ aromatic materials. My deliberate use of the term aroma reflects a focus on the material ‘substance’ of scent as a resource for learning, communicating, and making, in contrast with the functional study of olfaction or scent in the context of commercial fragrance. This orientation reflects my doctoral research on mediation practices as a model of informal aromatic learning in the context of culture and heritage. The pedagogical orientation of the aroma lab reflects my training and study of informal learning inquiry, multimodal literacy, and play in non-institutional digital affinity spaces and communities of practice (CoP).

As a researcher-practitioner, I have studied varied practices with aroma both informally and formally, facilitated smell walks in Marseille, France, Vancouver and Toronto, led aroma-focused workshops and Master Classes, and have created original aromatic learning resources and custom scents for collaborative research projects, prototypes, installations, and exhibits. 

Interactive Media + Exhibit Design

Prior to my graduate study, I worked for 15 years as a freelance writer, editor, and new media content producer creating content for award-winning national media, international museum exhibits, and government clients. During this time I was approached to teach post-secondary and post-graduate courses in interactive writing, digital journalism, and professional communications at Centennial College’s School of Communications, Media and Design. This experience inspired my interest to return to undertake formal teacher training at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) where I pursued a B.Ed in intermediate/secondary education, with a focus on inner city and at-risk learning environments.

Educational Qualifications

  • Ph.D., Communications and Culture, York University (2018)
  • M.A., Communication and Culture, York University (2013)
  • B.Ed., Bachelor of Education (Intermediate/Secondary), Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto (2007)
  • B.A. Hons., Bachelor of Arts, English Literature, University of Toronto (2000)

Additional Training + Professional Qualifications

  • Introductory and Intermediate Natural Perfume Certifications, Mandy Aftel’s (Aftelier’s) In-Studio classes (2017-2019)
  • Additional Teaching Qualifications (AQ): Media I and II, York University/Ontario College of Teachers (2009)
  • Post-Graduate Certificate in Online Writing and Information Design, Centennial College, School of Communications (2001)
  • OCT certified teacher (Ontario College of Teachers), 2008 [current status: Inactive/Non-Practicing]