To create a truly student centered experience, we used a design thinking process to design learning that takes into consideration students interests, concerns and passions. The first stage of the design thinking process is empathy. By unpacking data collected from our students it was clear that young people at schools across NSW are interested in some BIG issues. Themes identified included:

  • Mental health
  • Environmental issues both locally and globally
  • Financial stability
  • Uncertain futures, particularly in work
  • Racism
  • Poverty
  • Friendships
  • Sports


Using the empathy data collected from students at participating schools and core subject outcomes from the NSW syllabus, teachers developed driving questions for students to innovate, design and build solutions to problems. Driving questions are posed around real world dilemmas and drive inquiry, process and discussion. There are multiple ways to answer a driving question empowering students to seek out knowledge and develop a final product that is authentic and real world connected.

Here are some of the driving questions developed:

How can we promote safe use of technology?  

How can we motivate the community to engage in waste disposal and waste reduction? 

How can stories be represented musically? What does a story sound like?  

How can we improve mental well-being in our school?  

How could we expose students at our school to Chinese food culture through our school canteen?  

How can we help those in need by using materials from our local community?  

How might we better manage waste in our school? 

What could we as citizens propose as solutions to address the impacts of the new Shell Harbour Marina?  

How can we create an equal society?  

How might we create a multipurpose outdoor learning space that the school community can enjoy?  

How can we be the cleanest school in NSW?  

How can we as a community solve global warming?

How would we as teachers educate year 11 students about about cells in an engaging way?  

Using these driving questions teachers created rigorous formative and summative assessment that connected learning to real world resources. They designed opportunities for students to showcase their work to an authentic audience. Alongside this they ideated the skills and knowledges required to carry out projects. Feel free to get in touch for more information.

 Teachers developing empathy maps at the Project Design Lab

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