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 in Chicago. While teaching in factory lunchrooms, hotels, church basements, government and nongovernmental organizations, John became actively involved in the labor union of adult educators at the City Colleges of Chicago.
He currently teaches graduate courses in critical pedagogy, social theory, and educational research. He received his B.S. degree (1988) in US History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his M.S. degree (1994) in adult continuing education from Northern Illinois University, and his Ed.D. degree (2000) from Northern Illinois University.
His research and writing focuses on the theory and practice of social movement learning. He is the author of the Social Movements, Civil Society, and Radical Adult Education. Along with Stephen Brookfield, he co-authored Radicalizing Learning: Adult Education for a Just World which won the 2010 Cyril O. Houle World Award for Outstanding Literature in Adult Education. He has also authored over 20 book chapters and journal articles. His work has been translated into Spanish, German, and Italian. He is a Houle Scholar Fellow (2001-2003) and, as such, he is currently working on the forthcoming text Gramsci, Globalization, and Pedagogy.