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Knud Illeris

Knud Illeris

Hall of Fame Class of 2006

Knud Illeris is a professor of lifelong learning at the Danish University of Education in Copenhagen. He exemplifies the true spirit of adult education, as he left a promising career as a travel agent at age 27 to begin his higher education. He divides his educational career into two distinct timeframes. From 1966 until 1987, Illeris was working with learning and education in general, with a focus on academic and vocational youth education. In 1987, he shifted his career focus to adult education and general learning theory. 

He was deeply engaged in building up the studies at the new Roskilde University and produced many publications on teacher training, school and society, and project work in practice. 

Illeris helped the Labour Market Adult Vocational Training System through a process of reorganization beginning in 1987. The challenge was to develop new types of courses which should combine the usual high professional qualities with the development of modern generic skills. In the “Generic Qualification” research project he examined all aspects of adult vocational training, leading to a qualification theory in 1993 and later also to a learning theory. 

In 1999, The Three Dimensions of Learning, was published, reviewing and redefining THE UNDERSTANDING OF learning. The book quickly became a bestseller. He also started the “Adult Education Research Project” which dealt with HOW nonacademic adults cope and feel about adult education today. His latest research enterprise is the Learning Lab Denmark Consortium on Workplace Learning. 

Through his work, the relevance of lifelong, workplace learning and learning theory has grown in prominence in Denmark. He has served as advisor to the Danish presidency of the European Union on the understanding of the policy of lifelong learning. Illeris’ impact on government, labour market authorities, and his work with workers, has given him a special status, leading to his nomination at the Learning Lab. 

His latest publications on learning theory and workplace learning offer an excellent review of all learning theories of the 20th century and Illeris has created a new model of learning based on three principles – emotional, cognitive and social – and four stages especially for adult learners. Such a learning theory previously did not exist. He holds the equivalent of a doctorate in psychological research.