Scope and sequence of professional learning

Community partners and classroom-based teachers learn in a collaborative setting throughout the annual 9-day SEMIS Coalition professional development (PD) series.  The PD series is cumulative over a one-year period and multi-faceted, where learning is collaborative. We employ research-based practices in designing PD that is supportive of adult transformational learning.  Educators come together with different kinds of experiences, strengths and needs,  so the SEMIS Coalition facilitates conversations with individuals and schools to identify shared resources and strengths.

Teachers gather with community partners and community leaders for five full days during the school year and four full days during our annual four-day Summer Institute.

A typical 1-year cycle of professional development includes:

  • 4 day Summer Institute Kickoff
  • Fall 1 day PD building on the Summer Institute
  • November Place-Based Education Conference
  • Winter Professional Development Coalition Wide Meeting
  • 1 Spring Professional Development in conjunction with the Ecojustice and Activism Conference
  • Customized Coaching Assistance
  • Affinity Meetings as determined by Coalition Members
  • Spring Coalition Community Forum

The SEMIS Coalition professional development model provides opportunities for teachers, community partners and administrators in a variety of categories including, coaching and mentoring, coalition building, whole-school professional development, collaborative assessment, and place-based curriculum co-development.  This structured sequence was developed through best practices in adult learning theory, place-based and project-based learning, inquiry-based instruction, and academic service learning processes.

Summer Institute

Each year, we design our annual Summer Institute around an ecological theme, creating a common language for engaging in deep cultural-ecological analysis, project planning, and community inquiry and action.  Using the best practices of professional development, place-based education is studied in the context of content standard requirements, experiential learning, civic engagement processes and curriculum content resources.  In this way, diverse partners and teachers come together to share knowledge through deep place-based experiences, including teacher and student led learning with SEMIS Coalition support.

Summer Institute Themes have included:

  • 2014: Exploring the Commons
  • 2013: Great Lakes Literacy
  • 2012: Urban Agriculture: The Story of Food, Community & Justice
  • 2011: Detroit as Our Place: Ecological, Economic & Historical Stories
  • 2010: Water: A Hidden History
  • 2009: Interconnectedness: Racism & Ecology
  • 2008: EcoJustice & Place-Based Education


Community Forum

The annual Community Forum provides students and educators with the opportunity to share their work with SEMIS Coalition members in a professional conference setting with peers and community members sharing methods and project development.  This conference puts students in the position of educators, with the majority of sessions led by youth. This forum provides leadership and presentation opportunities for students, as well as sharing between SEMIS Coalition classes, families and communities.

Some of the place-based education projects presented on this year included:

  • The gardens @DIT: A Cody youth ambassador project
  • Creating real partnerships with parents and community members
  • Great Lakes sing-‐a-­‐long­
  • Natural observations: Drawing and writing in nature
  • Stunning Salmon-‐-­‐a water journey­
  • Getting to know H2O and service-learning efforts
  • Permaculture and cycles for the 21st century

The Community Forum is also a venue for celebrating successes across the Coalition through an Awards ceremony.

Teacher Leadership

SEMIS Coalition professional development includes a teacher leadership component aimed at fostering a core group of teachers who can serve as leaders both within the coalition and in their school communities. Opportunities to lead sessions at the Summer Institute and the Community Forum, as well as being a team leader for SEMIS Coalition projects at their schools, are just some of the ways that teacher leadership is developed in the SEMIS Coalition

Cross Hub Collaboration

Teachers can take advantage of additional professional development opportunities with other Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative hubs, through participation in experiences like the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative Summer Institute.  Educators can also participate in the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative Place-Based Education Conference every November to network with educators across Michigan.  In future years, there will be other opportunities to work with affiliated hubs, whose calendars of events can be found through the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative Website.

Affinity Groups

Affinity groups are groups of SEMIS Coalition teachers and community partners pursuing similar content areas of interest within the SEMIS Coalition.   These groups meet outside the 9-day professional development sequence on a schedule agreed upon by group members to deepen learning in specific content and interest areas.   Some of these areas include:  youth and student voice, disability studies in place-based education, permaculture design, and historical perspectives in place-based experiences.  Educators and partners supported through this piece of the program can apply for $100 grants to support professional learning community activities and expenses like food, admission costs for local resources to be explored, and materials such as books for shared reading discussions.

Whole school professional development

Whole School Professional Development involves teachers and administrators in an in-depth look at the characteristics of powerful place-based education.  When a school signs on for this level of support, it involves a 3 and ½ day introductory PD experience, which anchors teachers across disciplines in developing questions on Great Lakes literacy and inquiry-based stewardship.  The following is the step-by step guide to this professional development opportunity

Asset-Based Needs Assessment: SEMIS Coalition staff will lead an inventory of skills in inquiry-based education and assessment, civic engagement processes and place-based programming already going on at your school to determine what your teachers bring to the SEMIS Coalition partnership model, and where you might need coaching to develop teachers interested in this approach. This is also where place-based education will be defined.

Discussion of Strengths, Weaknesses and Expectations:  Following the inventory, SEMIS Coalition will develop a list of strengths, weaknesses and expectations for partnership, including the development of teams around content areas, leadership support at the school, and how to meet standards with the place-based education approach.

Knowing Your School & Community:  After assessing the educational landscape, SEMIS Coalition will help to define what the top concerns around place-based education are for the school’s community.  From this discussion of environmental and social issues, an essential question will emerge that will be the focus of all teachers and administrators for the duration of the partnership with the SEMIS Coalition.  To create real change in the culture of the school and community, SEMIS Coalition suggests at least 3 years with the program, and 5 years for transformational and institutionalized changes in the school community.

Planning for the Future:  After defining training needs and community needs, SEMIS Coalition staff will lead the teachers in a backwards-mapping approach to lesson planning.  This coaching process starts with showing teams of teachers how they can use SEMIS Coalition resources (partnership grants, general support grants and curriculum support) to reach their standards goals, and enhance what they are already doing.

The Whole School Professional Development experience brings everyone together to gather support and integrate disciplines around a core stewardship question.  With everyone on the same page, a school can enhance the success of any individual teacher efforts as part of a whole.