“Learning needs to change the soul as well as the head” – USA

Collaboration. It’s a key part of 21st century skills. But not just for students alone. Multi-stakeholder collaboration (between corporations, universities, non-profits, etc.)  – also known as “Partnering” – is now seen as a critical part of a creating a sustainable world. The International Partnership Brokers Association, led by chairman Greg Butler, is leading the way in Partnership Brokering, which is “vital to the effective scoping, design and process management of partnerships for sustainable development. So vital, that without brokering (whether formal or informal) most partnerships fall far short of their potential and many fail.”

Butler’s expertise in partnering speaks for itself. In fact, he has been several times instrumental in using partnering to change the status quo of education in multiple parts of the world. “Young people are not being equipped with the skills needed to be successful in employment,” says Butler. “You only have to look at unemployment and mismatch of skills and jobs.” Intel, Cisco and Microsoft have been all invested in finding a solution to this problem and Butler has been working on their collaboration to form an Industry-University partnership with the University of Melbourne – not an easy task given the inherent differences and cultural divide between industries and universities. The partnership, which combines his strong interest in employability through 21st century skills with his expertise in global partnerships, is called ATC21S – Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills.

According to Butler, ATC21S identifies two discrete skill sets that are essential for today’s students: collaborative problem solving and digital literacy.  The main concern is how these skill sets can be measured accurately and globally. Over the last three years, this multi-stakeholder effort, involving around 250 academics and multilateral institutions including the OECD and UNESCO may have changed the face of global education as we know it. The partnership successfully developed a new set of tools to assess skills that will form the basis of new curricula.

“ATC21S has played an essential pathfinder role to move the assessment agenda forward,” says Andreas Schleicher, special advisor on education policy to the OECD and founder of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment). “It fills a critical gap between existing basic research on assessment design and methodologies, on the one hand, and the implementation of large-scale assessments that provide reliable data at reasonable cost, on the other.”

As a result, it was announced in January that the OECD’s international PISA study in 2015 would include Collaborative Problem Solving as a new and mandatory area of 21st Century Skill assessment.

“I always have been passionate about the role of learning and education in helping individual learners become more than they currently are,” says Butler. “It’s a moral imperative! The ability of people to partner around key challenges is an essential component.”

Here, Butler gives us his thoughts on the future of education and how teachers have the power to change a single life, and, indeed, the world.  

Can you describe the teacher who most influenced you?

He believed in me more than I believed in myself and helped me be a better person.

Describe the most inspiring day you’ve experienced as an educator.

Every day is inspiring when you see people learn something new, go to a new level, and learn how to work together with others in doing so.

What is your proudest professional achievement?

Many proud moments, but I think being awarded a significant Technology in Education
award early in my career for contributions to public education.

How can other educators implement what you’ve learned?

Take on board the important skills in effective collaboration and share them with their students. Collaborative problem solving, effective partnering, and sharing responsibility are key skills for students to be successful in life. ICT plays a critical role in enabling these skills.

If you could change one thing about today’s “system” of education, what would it be? 

Make it more engaging and fun, interdependent and personal competency-based
progression. Learning needs to change the soul as well as the head.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

Tapping into the potential of people to work together, sharing goals, sharing accountability, in mind, body and heart changing experiences to solve real world challenges.

What advice would you give a new teacher?

Make sure you never forget the importance of what you are doing, you have the potential to change lives for a lifetime.

What is your greatest hope for the future of education?

That education can adapt fast enough, and take advantage of the power of ICTs, to keep ahead of the learning potential of the next generation. Important!


Learn more about Assessment and Teaching of the 21st Century Skills

Sponsored by Cisco, Intel and Microsoft, ATC21S aims to help educators around the world enable students with the skills to succeed.


About Greg Butler

Greg Butler is the chairman of the International Partnership Brokers Association. The Association is the international professional association for partnership brokers and operates as a membership-driven, not-for-profit company. As such, any surplus income is reinvested for the ongoing development of its education & vocational training objectives. It was created to promote good partnership brokering in advancing effective cross-sector collaboration for an equitable and sustainable world.

Butler is also Senior Director for Education Leaders audience strategy for Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector Education through supporting strategic partnerships and programs that align Microsoft’s citizenship activities and commercial efforts. Through this role Greg works with key global organizations such as UNESCO, World Bank, European Union and OECD.

After spending 15 years as a teacher, principal, technology consultant and university lecturer, Greg founded two successful companies and a not-for-profit organization. He joined Microsoft in 2001 to lead all academic programs for Microsoft in the US, moving on to the role of Worldwide Director for K-12 Strategy, Solutions and Programs.

Birthplace/date: Sydney, Australia
Current residence: Seattle, USA
Education: Dip. Teach (Primary) Charles Sturt University, Grad. Dip. (Comp. Ed) Charles Sturt University, M Ed (I.T.) University of Western Sydney, Post Grad. Cert. (Cross Sector Partnerships) University of Cambridge, Partnership Brokers Accreditation Scheme (Dist.)
Website I check every daySydney Morning Herald
Person who inspires me most: Michael Fullan
Favorite childhood memory: Winning my first motorcycle race 🙂
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Lisbon, Portugal
Favorite book: Conscious Business by Fred Kofman

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