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Rolf Arnold

Rolf Arnold

Hall of Fame Class of 2022

Rolf Arnold received his doctorate in 1983 from the University of Heidelberg, completed his habilitation at the FernUniversität Hagen, and held a chair in education (1990-2019) at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, where he is a full professor. His research interests include adult education, business training and higher education, development of teaching and learning systems, systemic pedagogy, emotional constructivism, and intercultural vocational training pedagogy. His interpretative approach to adult education proposes that adults develop their identity and competence on the basis of acquired patterns of interpretation; thus the learning process can succeed when the learning opportunity addresses these acquired patterns and transforms them by reflecting on other possible outcomes.

He has written more than 900 books, chapters, articles, studies, handbooks, all of which have made him one of the most profiled writers on adult and continuing education in Germany and beyond. He is co-editor of the standard work in this discipline (Handbook of Vocational Education) and the initiator and co-editor of the Wörterbuch Erwachsenenbildung (Dictionary of Adult Education), currently in its third edition. He is one of the most cited German scholars in the fields of vocational and adult education.

At the TU Kaiserslautern, Arnold established the Distance and Independent Study Center (DISC) and served as its scientific director (1992-2019). Today, this continuing education institution is one of Germany’s largest and most respected for the professionalization of adult educators and has been recognized with several awards as the most popular distance learning institution in the country. DISC offers 17 master's programs and four certificate programs and has graduated 17,000 students from around the world. DISC was a partner in setting up the first European Master in Adult Education and the first European Doctoral Studies in Adult and Continuing Education. Since its inception, 8,000 participants have benefitted by further developing their self-learning skills. In addition, Arnold is the spokesperson for the Virtual Campus Rhineland-Palatinate, currently serving more than 200,000 students.

Early in his career, he proposed important perspectives for a stronger skills-based focus not only in vocational and adult education but also in higher education. His belief that “knowledge is not a skill” continues to influence the debates over skills-based versus knowledge-based training. In numerous research and development projects, he has contributed to linking higher education more closely to the state of knowledge in the field of adult education and to the development of skills-based academic training models.

His contributions to the field extend beyond theory. He has led on-the-job training, seminars, and workshops in Germany, Switzerland, Columbia, and elsewhere, disseminating the systemic perspective in adult learning. He established the private Systemia Institute, providing training for teachers, members of human resources departments, and intergenerational family participants.

Arnold has served on important adult education boards and committees, such as the State Advisory Board for Continuing Education in Rhineland-Palatinate, the Scientific Advisory Board, the national Concerted Action for Continuing Education program sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education, and the German Institute for Adult Education, for which he served as the chairman of the board of directors.

Since the 1980s, he has been active in researching, developing, and training in the area of international cooperation and education. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eritrea, Mali, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, he set up functional structures of adult and continuing education and in Spain he was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Institut Universitari de Creativitat I Innovacions Educatives (IUCIE) of the University of Valencia. He received a Doctor Honoris Causa of West University of Timisoara, for his active contribution in establishing its doctoral school in lifelong learning and education.