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Westlake Neighborhood

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CommonLore—Practitioner Advisory Group

Founder, PBL facilitator, PBL coach , Meliora Program—Chicago, IL

charleneCharlene Doland is a co-founder and an academic coach at Meliora. She is a recent alumna of CWI's Summer EAST Institute. Meliora is a project based learning (PBL) initiative in the Chicago suburbs that offers humanities courses for secondary students in grades 6–12. PBL is a student and interest-centered methodology that provides opportunities for students to investigate topics of their own choosing within a defined framework.

Charlene recently wrote an insightful piece, for Community Works Journal, "My Student Named Sam and Differentiated Learning in PBL," read that here. Students develop not only content knowledge, but also critical thinking, analytical, technology, research, collaboration and communication skills. Charlene seeks to #inspirepassion in teens by amplifying student voice and by offering choice in how students demonstrate their evidence of learning. In keeping with CWI’s principles of Place-Based Service-Learning, Meliora students are currently developing transmedia stories to resolve “dystopias” in their communities.

Charlene says her collective vision for education is "student-and passion/interest-centered authentic, real-world investigations and projects. I believe the most important skill we can instill in students is how to think critically, so all the work we ask them to do should challenge them to THINK." The “absolutes” sees in this vision are that "the work undertaken by the students be meaningful to THEM, and reflects THEIR reality. 'Reality' will vary significantly from community to community, therefore the investigations need to be unique, not “canned,” and not based on a textbook."

She believes that the way to achieve this is by creating a process for defining/planning projects such that students develop important skills and knowledge, while also retaining a lot of control over how exactly they develop their 'products' and how they present their 'evidence of learning.'" Charlene also provides Project Based Learning (PBL) coaching services to public and private schools and teachers. She is a certified PBL teacher through the Buck Institute for Education, and stays abreast of best practices in PBL and in education through formal and informal learning, participation in a variety of social media groups, and as a practitioner.

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