Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

Report on Academic Specialist Visit
to South Africa:
November 16 - 29, 1998

By Dr. William Spady
Breakthrough Learning Systems

About the Specialist

Dr. William Spady is President of Breakthrough Learning Systems and an internationally recognized authority on Outcome-Based Education, organizational change, transformational leadership development, and strategic planning. For the past 25 years he has spearheaded major efforts throughout North America and abroad on improving staff and student performance and systemically changing educational systems. Today he is also applying those same tools to improving leadership and organizational effectiveness in business and the public sector.

A native of Oregon, Bill received three degrees from the University of Chicago, including a Ph.D. in the Sociology of Education in 1967. His first positions included academic appointments at Harvard University and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (in Toronto). In 1973, he became a Senior Research Sociologist at the National Institute of Education where he served for six years. During that time he was elected as a vice-president of the American Educational Research Association.

In 1979, Dr. Spady joined the staff of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) as the Director of its National Center for the Improvement of Learning. While in that role, he co-founded the Network for Outcome-Based Schools, served as its Executive Director for five years, and founded and edited its quarterly publication Outcomes for six years. Between 1983 and 1986 he served as Director of the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development in San Francisco, and in 1986 he formed the High Success Network, which for a decade led cutting-edge developments in Outcome- Based Restructuring, curriculum design, and school change in over forty states and Canadian Provinces. He has appeared as a featured speaker on the national programs of most major educational organizations in the U.S., and has been named "Distinguished Lecturer" at AASA's national convention four times.


Areas of Specialization

Dr. Spady has published and lectured extensively across the world on organizational leadership, systemic change, instructional management, Outcome- Based Education, school restructuring, strategic planning, curriculum design, and paradigm change.


Trip Report

Dr. Spady arrived in South Africa on November 16, 1998, primarily to participate in two major conferences on Outcome Based Education.

The first, called the International Symposium on Outcomes-Based Education, was sponsored by Vista University and held on November 17 and 18 in Pretoria at the Human Sciences Research Council. The program featured OBE experts from Australia, England, New Zealand, and Scotland as well as Dr. Spady. Numerous presentations and commentaries were also offered by educators and policy makers from South Africa. The Symposium was limited to an audience of about 150 educators and policy makers, primarily representing various kinds of higher education and training institutions in South Africa.

Dr. Spady gave the Keynote Address of the Symposium, entitled "OBE: Reform in Search of a Definition." In addition to commenting on several of the other presentations, he also gave the concluding address of the Symposium, entitled "The Transformational Potential of Curriculum 2005: It's All in the Outcomes." The basic purpose of the two presentations was to offer internationally validated precision and rigor to the term "Transformational OBE" and to clarify how it does and doesn't apply to the key features of South Africa's current educational reforms. His perspectives were reinforced strongly by the other international experts on the program.

On November 19 and 20, Dr. Spady remained in Pretoria to provide assistance to Professors Ig Kempen, William Fraser, and their colleagues at the University of Pretoria in designing and implementing Outcome-Based programs and courses for their campus. In addition, he conducted a joint seminar at the University with Professor Roy Killen of Australia on "Implementing OBE in the Classroom." The seminar was attended by University faculty members, officials of teachers organizations, staff development specialists, and secondary school principals and teachers in the greater Pretoria area.

The second major conference that brought Dr. Spady to South Africa took place on November 23-25 at the Teachers Centre in Port Elizabeth. Over 150 educators and training specialists from across the Eastern Cape Province officially registered for the three-day program, which covered a broad range of issues related to OBE design and practice. The event was jointly hosted by the Teachers Centre and the Delta Foundation's OBE Initiative. Dr. Spady shared the program with Mr. Mzwai Kibi, a key South African expert on OBE who played a key role in developing the country's current Outcome-Based educational reforms.

On November 26 and 27, he: 1) worked with the key staff of the Delta Foundation's "Siyabona Project" (which offers assistance to secondary school students seeking to strengthen their life skills and enter higher education programs), reviewing the Project's substance and implementation plan and tying it more closely to the country's Curriculum 2005 effort; 2) conducted a follow-up question and answer session for participants in the three-day conference; 3) conducted a half-day seminar on OBE for early childhood specialists at the Port Elizabeth Early Learning Centre; and conducted a seminar for University of Port Elizabeth faculty members on defining and assessing outcomes of significance in their programs.


Suggested Bibliography

Dr. Spady's pioneering work on future-driven strategic planning and alignment, systemic change, instructional design, and leadership development is reflected in three widely acclaimed books, all published by AASA:

  • Outcome-Based Education: Critical Issues and Answers (1994)
  • Paradigm Lost: Reclaiming America's Educational Future (1998)
  • Total Leaders: Applying The Best Future-Focused Change Strategies to Education (1998), co-authored with Charles Schwahn.

He and Dr. Schwahn recently completed a groundbreaking document that defines and describes the operating essentials and indicators of "Information Age Learning Communities." It is currently setting new standards for educational change efforts in both North America and South Africa.

He is also the author of a major series of detailed handbooks for education leaders and policy makers on the whys, whats, and hows of leading and implementing productive change in the Information Age. This series of change resources includes:

  • Guidelines for Leading and Implementing Productive Change
  • Action Steps for Leading and Implementing Productive Change
  • A Strategic Process for Developing Future-Focused Student Performance Outcomes
  • The Future is Now: The Shifts and Trends that Are Redefining Organizations and Life in the New Millennium
  • Breakthrough Learning Communities: An Introduction

These documents can be obtained by contacting him at P.O. Box 4388, Dillon, CO 80435. His email address is:




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