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Dr. John Holst

Dr. John Holst

Associate Professor of Education (LLAED)

Phone: 814-863-3499

305E Keller Building
University Park, PA 16802


  • Learning and Performance Systems


  • Lifelong Learning and Adult Education
  • Comparative and International Education


John Holst is an Associate Professor of Education (LLAED) for the College of Education at Penn State. John Holst received his Bachelor’s Degree (1988) in US History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an emphasis on labor and women’s history, his Master’s Degree (1994) in adult and continuing education from Northern Illinois University, with an emphasis on urban adult education, and his Doctoral (Ed.D.) degree (2000) in adult and continuing education from Northern Illinois University. His dissertation was titled Social Movements and Civil Society: Implications for Radical Adult Education.


John Holst entered the informal field of adult education in 1984 as a social movement activist by working in the student, labor, anti-Apartheid, and Central American solidarity movements. He entered the formal field of adult education in 1988 as an instructor of English as a Second Language in community- and work-based adult education, first through an off-campus site of Triton College in Melrose Park, Illinois, and later through Malcolm X College in Chicago.  While teaching in factory lunchrooms, hotels, church basements, and government and non-governmental organizations, John became actively involved in the labor union of adult educators (AFSCME Local 3506) at the City Colleges of Chicago.


In 2000, John became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in Minnesota. He stayed at UST for 17 years working in the departments of Curriculum & Instruction, Leadership, Policy and Administration, and Educational Leadership.  He was a core faculty member in the Doctoral Program in Critical Pedagogy and later oversaw the concentration in Critical Pedagogy in the leadership departments.  While at UST, John taught courses in curriculum development, critical pedagogy, social theory, international development, and qualitative research.


He is the author of the book Social Movements, Civil Society, and Radical Adult Education (2002), the co-author of the book Radicalizing Learning: Adult Education for a Just World (2010), and co-editor of the book Antonio Gramsci: A Pedagogy to Change the World (2017). In addition, he is the author of over 60 journal articles, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, book reviews, and other scholarly essays. His work has appeared in journals such as the Adult Education Quarterly, the International Journal of Lifelong Learning, Studies in the Education of AdultsEducational Philosophy and Theory, Journal of Transformative Education, and the Harvard Educational Review. His work has been translated into Spanish, German, Turkish, and Italian. He was a Houle Scholar Fellow from 2001-2003, and his co-authored book Radicalizing Learning won the 2011 Cyril O. Houle Award for Outstanding Literature in Adult Education.


John’s research interests center on case studies of and theories that inform and emerge from historical and contemporary forms of radical adult education. As such, he has recently published case study research on a trade union school in Chile, a co-authored comparative study of youth and adult education in three social movement contexts, a co-edited, special issue journal on lifelong learning and adult education in Latin American and Caribbean social movements, and a single-authored article on race, change, and anti-racist education.

Areas of Expertise

Age Levels


Education Levels

Adult Education

Educational Studies

Comparative Ed
Critical & Feminist Theory
Educational Theory
History of Ed

Individual Difference

Conceptual Change
Learning Processes

Methodological Research

Discourse Analysis
Historical Research
Interpretive Research
Qualitative Research

Social Issues

Comparative and International Education
Race and Ethnicity
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