David Yarborough - Design Thinking & Student-Driven Project Based Learning

Wow, what a crazy journey.  After 30+ years as a teacher in both large diverse public schools and small selective independent schools, as an administrator, as a coach, and as a camp director, I have the opportunity to assist schools and teachers engage students in a way that will make students active participants in their own learning in a new and exciting way.

After several years of standing in front of high school classes, delivering traditional lectures and administering the standard flavor of assessments, I realized that although students often fared well in that environment neither the students nor I felt overly fulfilled by the experience.  I took the risk and embarked on a new path, one that empowered students to shape their own experiences, attack real problems, and, to a great degree, shape their own learning experience.  I felt if suddenly content had a purpose.  I have had middle school students devise plans for resettlement of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan in a small Georgia community.  I watched them carry on conversations with adults involved in refugee relocation in cities around the United States.  I have watched students create playgrounds for shopping center developments and create plans for decreasing traffic congestion in neighborhoods, making presentations to city government officials.  Mostly, I watched students learn by doing, shifting classes from teacher driven to student driven.

After completing high school in a small, rural but eclectic community in the Texas Panhandle I attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas where I received a BA in Social Sciences in 1973. In 1993, I gained a MEd. in Secondary School Admin. from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

I love to see students take risks, unafraid of failure, attacking real problems, and feel the accomplishment from a display of their work in public exhibitions.  I enjoy watching teachers feel comfortable with the unpredictable nature of organic learning, helping create structure and acting as mentors.  There is nothing more rewarding that walking into a classroom that is fully engaged in active learning, moving from activity to activity, developing the key skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

As a teacher, I now spend as much of time working with teachers as with students in this environment-changing adventure.  When I am not at work, I write, spend as much of my time outside with my wife and our dog, always seeking to make every day a great day.

Engage David Yarborough

If you would like to take the journey with David, please fill in the form below or email acolvin@lausannelearning.com. David’s contact information is below if you would like to talk to him directly.

Mentor Contact

As a Lausanne Learning Consultant, David exemplifies the LL Five Consulting Characteristics:

  1. Student-Centered Character: LL Consultants always keep each student at the center of the conversation in imagining what “could be” from “what is”
  2. Sustaining Character: LL Consultants are focused on working with the school to implement practices that can be sustained over the long term to support the school’s mission
  3. Imaginative Character: LL Consultants are expert and thus can imagine different answers as you interrogate the key question or questions that you are being asked
  4. Independent Character: LL Consultants ensure that their clients become independent of them over time, not co-dependent
  5. Fearless Character: LL Consultants won’t tell their clients what they want to hear but what, in their professional opinion, should be said


The time for engaging students in real issues requiring student creativity and critical thought is backed some alarming data. A recent Gallup poll found that just 11 per cent of business leaders think colleges satisfactorily prepare students for success in the workplace. (“America’s call for Higher Education Redesign.” The 2012 Lumina Foundation Study of the American Public’s Opinion on Higher Education, February 5, 2013.). Equally alarming is the fact that schools may be failing to educate students to be responsible and informed citizens. “The most recent Civics Assessment conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that twelfth graders’ civics skills knowledge and skills actually declined between 1998 and 2010.” (“The Nations Report Card: Civics 2010.” National Center for Education Statistics.). What curriculum that practices Design Thinking strategies at least in part, does is to bring the engagement necessary to change current trends in student education.

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"Nick (a student of David's) is the protégé of an excellent Montessori School in Rome, which he attended from age two through the sixth grade. There he learned to be responsible for himself, both in his thinking and his behavior. He was encouraged to speak up, to frame good questions, and to articulate his views while being respectful to teachers and peers. David introduced him to a wider range of cultural contexts and issues, and required him in his writing and projects to make connections between history and present day situations. Our family conversations around the dinner table immediately took on a different dimension as we discussed such topics as the Great Depression and the 2007 economic crisis, and police response to minority populations in light of the Jim Crow era. Katherine and I have always had these discussions, but largely because of David Yarborough our fourteen-year-old has vigorously joined in. Nick’s approach to note taking and essay writing also took a sizable leap in the seventh grade. David Yarborough has a passion for history and for getting students to think; I have seen the effects of his work in my house and will always owe him a debt of gratitude." - David Powell, Academic Dean (retired), Darlington School, Rome, GA

“I’ve been in education for 17 years as a teacher, coach, administrator and now as a doctoral student in Educational Leadership, earning my Superintendent’s license. Along that journey, I’ve been fortunate to come across a handful of people that have inspired my love for the art of learning and challenged and transformed how I view it. David is one of those individuals. Simply, his perspective combines the awesome responsibility and opportunity we have as educators with the vision to empower students at every turn. Through my years with David, I’ve learned not to view students as customers upon which we’re delivering a product, but collaborators on a powerful journey together. “Coach Y” has benefited all of the students, classes, schools and organizations I’ve been a part of since we first met and I’m truly grateful for him. He represents the best of educators I hope to become and that I hope my own two daughters come across often in their academic experience.” - Ben Williamson, Teacher/Learning Specialist, Asheville School, Asheville, NC

David Yarborough

Independent Academic Coach and Athletic Counselor


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