We look back on more than six decades of research in the field of adult teaching and learning. How did it all begin, how are we evolving? Which questions and problems will the DIE research, explain and communicate in the next decade? We retrospect and look forward to the future. 

The founding years

The Institute was founded in 1957 in Frankfurt/Main as the "Pädagogische Arbeitsstelle des Deutschen Volkshochschul-Verbandes" (PAS). In the early years, the focus of the institute's work was on the quality of program design, methods and, in particular, the qualifications of course instructors at German adult education centers. The library comes into being. Since the 1960s, volumes on the theory and practice of adult education and materials on adult education are published. The official Volkshochschule statistics are developed and have been published every year since then.

We grow and take up social developments

In the 1970s, the institute grows significantly in terms of staff and funding thanks to support from the political sector. In the 1980s, it dedicates itself to research on questions of educational work with so-called educationally disadvantaged people, such as persons with a migration background, the unemployed or the illiterate. With its research focus on health and environmental education, the institute responds to social developments and challenges.

In the 1990s, the institute was renamed the German Institute for Adult Education. This marks the opening of the work and services to all adult education institutions.

Professionalization and competence determination

With the turn of the millennium, the Institute sets new research priorities: The professionalization of continuing education personnel, competence measurement, inclusion through continuing education, and organizational change and structural data on continuing education occupy our researchers. The Institute moves its headquarters to Bonn and becomes a member of the Leibniz Association. The Institute's library advances to become the largest specialized scientific library for adult education.

In 2015, the portal wb-web.de goes online. It supplements the DIE homepage www.die-bonn.de with specially tailored services and information for teachers.



We will continue to carry out relevant and well-founded research work in the future: What are the future topics of the DIE?

Research data: Documenting knowledge and making it findable


Where can you find the basis for your research and how can you obtain relevant data? Anyone who does research needs literature and data. Our special library for adult education is increasingly becoming a hub of the global and interdisciplinary knowledge network. We provide well-documented and structured access to texts, data and sources. And we make sure that information can be found easily and reliably.

Systems research

SystemforschungWe want to understand systems of continuing education. What influence do cities, regions, countries have on continuing education? How is continuing education organized? We observe, analyze and compare continuing education systems in Germany, Europe and beyond. Our analyses make the systems transparent and are the basis for political decisions.

Mastering cultural diversity ─ enabling participation

VielfaltIn Germany today, about one in five people has a migration background. How do continuing education institutions deal with social and cultural diversity in our society? How do they engage to realize equitable participation opportunities? Our research aims to help educational institutions live integration and master growing cultural diversity - also at management level.

Who are those who have been underrepresented in continuing education? Why do these people often not take up educational offers? And why do they sometimes do? How can we make learning attractive to them again and reduce inhibition thresholds? How can inhibition thresholds be reduced? The DIE researches how the very heterogeneous group of the so-called educationally distant can be addressed by continuing education organizations and how motivating teaching offers can be made and planned.

Professionalization: Making good teachers better

TrainingWhat does a good teacher know and what can they do? How can teachers' knowledge and skills be captured and promoted? How can digital media support teachers? Because we know that good teachers are the foundation of good continuing education, we research and work to support teachers in their work, to make knowledge visible, and to provide continuing education.

Knowledge Transfer: Reporting on Education and Making Materials Accessible

DialogWhat we research in the DIE should be passed on to society, practice and politics! But what is the best way for knowledge to reach the users? For a long time, through books and journals. But how is the book changing in the digital age? What does contemporary educational reporting look like? How can access to innovative educational materials be designed? How do we reach as many adult educators as possible? We organize knowledge transfer - wherever it makes sense - free of charge, networked, processable and re-usable. This means: in open access and with digital teaching, learning and knowledge offerings.

We are committed to working on these issues now and in the future, and we want to and will help adults learn successfully, develop personally, participate in society, and find and keep good jobs.

since 2020

New dialog formats for practice have emerged: The DIALOG Practice Network for Knowledge Transfer and Innovation promotes exchange between research and practice in the field of adult education. The event series "dialog digitalisierung"of the metavohaben Digitalization in Empirical Educational Research (Digi-EBF) for adult and continuing education brings together researchers and representatives from educational practice to jointly discuss current problems and strategies for digitalization against the background of findings from empirical educational research.

The DIE is now part of the author group of the National Education Report. The longitudinal study TAEPS on the employment conditions, qualifications and competencies of teaching staff in adult education has been launched. Already 400 teachers have gone through the GRETA recognition process under the title "Acting Competently in Training, Course and Seminar".

By concluding two appointment procedures with the FernUniversität in Hagen, we are improving our research expertise and our ability to cooperate. International networking is also being intensified: in the networks of the European Society of Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA), through the continuation of research relationships with international partners, and through the internationalization of consulting services related to the ProfilPASS. Our research infrastructures are being expanded, e.g., through the digitization of the VHS program archive.


2018 - Special funding: In a competitive process by the Leibniz Association, the DIE has gained special funds for additional jobs to advance its research profile and services. As of fall 2017, four Junior Research Groups with two PhD positions focus on testing academic findings in practice.

The granted minor strategical special funding increases the exisiting 49 institutional positions by 16.5 percent and thus the DIE potential. The reason for this development are increasing expectations for research to quickly and effecitvely convey new knowledge to politics and practice. Particularly member institutions of the Leibniz Association are dedicated to conducting research for society's benefit.

"DIE-Zeitschrift für Erwachsenenbildung" receives a relaunch and has been published as "weiter bilden" since 2018 with a changed layout, new content structure, and an expanded target audience. In addition, the members of the publication team were involved in the development of a Leibniz Open Access strategy. The DIE, partly in association with other educational research institutions, is committed to anchoring Open Educational Resources in the field of continuing education. The internal transfer of knowledge is being improved through the redesign of the library.

2017 – The DIE strengthens and broadens infrastructures for research, politics and practice. It advances the range of research infrastructures in line with international standards and enhances services for research, politics and practice of adult education.

The department "Knowledge Transfer" provides services, which make research-based knowledge accessible as publications and a "Portal for Continuing Educators" to all stakeholders in adult education. It also provides the well-known competence assessment tool "ProfilPASS". The department "Research Infrastructure" combines successful DIE services such "Adult Education Centre and Network Statistics", adult education centre programmes and the DIE library. These services are supplemented by the collection, processing and provisions of internal and external research data.

2016 – The institute achieves a good result in its evaluation: In July, the Leibniz Association attested to the DIE's positive development and recommended funding for further seven years. It acknowledges very good prerequisites for a successful development. For more details see the press release.

2015 – Relaunch of DIE Website in responsive design.

2015 – At the same time, the peer reviewed academic special interest journal "REPORT - Journal for Research on Adult Education" found a new publisher - the scientific publisher Springer VS. Under the altered title "Journal for Research on Adult Education" (ZfW) it is available free of charge as an open access journal on the Springer website. An international advisory board of twelve renowned researchers augments to the publication's international visibility and reputation.

2015 – wb-web: The portal for teachers in adult and continuing education went online in December. It was developed by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the DIE and continued by the DIE after March 2016.

2014 to 2017 – The DIE Board of Directors has three members: Academic Directors, Prof. Dr. Josef Schrader and Prof. Dr. Esther Winther, and Business Director, Bettina Pröger.

2013 – Bettina Pröger is appointed as Business Director.

2013 – In the same year, the DIE begins a process for strategy development: The DIE adapts the content-related and thematic redesign of four research programmes in line with a model of continuing education as a multi-level system, which differentiates action levels from a teaching-learning situation to national and international political guidance. Our researchers work in the following programmes:

  • System and Policies
  • Organisation and Management
  • Programmes and Participation
  • Teaching, Learning, Counselling

2012 – Prof. Dr. Josef Schrader is appointed as Scientific Director.

2011 – Successful evaluation of the DIE by the Leibniz Association.


Intensified research; focus:

  • professionalisation of staff in continuing education
  • competence assessment
  • inclusion by continuing education
  • change in organization and structural data on continuing education.

Development of statistics on providers as well as information and evaluation services for educational institutions. Data supported reports on continuing education, preparation of data concepts which are control relevant (educational monitoring). Programme support by the federal government and the federal states (Laender) for “Lifelong Learning”. Certification of informal learning (ProfilPASS), development of procedures for quality testing (LQW).

Extension of international network i.e. assistance in the development of institutions of continuing education in Rumania and China, as well as the coordination of a ASEM network for the Professionalization of Learners.

Relocation from Frankfurt am Main to Bonn (2002). Successful evaluation of institutional work by the Leibniz Association (2004).

The institute celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Organizational adjustment to current challenges (i.e. relocation) and the complex sphere of action through organizational development, budget management, business accounting, programme oriented research structures and a cybernetic organizational model.

Board of Directors:

Scientific Director: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein (Director of Board)

Director (until 2005): Prof. Dr. Klaus Meisel (Board)

Director (since 2002), Business Director (since 2006): Hans-Joachim Schuldt (Board of Directors)


Dissemination of work and services for all institutions of adult education. Renaming of Institute for Didactics of Adult Education (PAS) to “German Institute for Adult Education” (DIE). Intensification of networking activities in the German continuing training sector as well as in the international activities.

 Research focus:

  • professionalization of operational structures in the field of continuing education (topics: organization, efficiency and financing, quality);
  • professionalization of staff in continuing education by developing a training programme;
  • new media in continuing education.

Organizational and educational counseling: development of material, training and immediate local support.

Fundamental revision of DIE publications (new structure of series: Theorie und Praxis der EB, Perspektive Praxis, Studientexte für EB, Länderportrait Weiterbildung). Two new magazines: „REPORT Zeitschrift für Weiterbildung“ and „DIE Zeitschrift für Erwachsenenbildung“.

Introduction: Innovation Prize for Continuing Education.

The DIE is evaluated by Advisory Council, which recommends “continuing the institutional development which was introduced successfully”.

The institute becomes constitutionally and organizationally independent of the German Adult Education Association; founding of the association “German Institute for Adult Education” (1997); establishment of a full-time association board (members: Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein, Dr. Klaus Meisel). Outsourcing of Central Examinations Office into WBT Weiterbildungs-Testsysteme (non-profit limited liability company).

Member of Leibniz Association (formerly Blue List). Prof. Dr. Nuissl von Rein is scientific Vice-President (1998 – 2004).

Board of Directors:

Director: Prof. Dr. Hans Tietgens (until 1991), Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein (1991 – 1997, since 1998; the scientific director is also full professor at the University of Marburg), Prof. Dr. Günther Dohmen (provisional director 1997)

Vice Director: Dr. Klaus Meisel (since 1988)


The Advisory Board recommended the institute’s extension (1984) based on the essential impulse and catalytic effects by the PAS for adult educational research.

Development of publication programmes (series “Theorien und Praxis der Erwachsenenbildung“ and „berichte-materialien-planungshilfen“, documentations on the history of adult education, lose-leaf collection “Die Volkshochschule - Handbuch für die Praxis der VHS-Leiter und –Mitarbeiter”, lesson media service, service for programmes at adult education centres, course materials, certificates).

Development oriented research on educational issues concentrated on marginalized groups such as foreigners, unemployed and illiterates. By focusing its research on health and environmental education, the institute responded to social developments and challenges.

Development of library and documentation.

Board of Directors:

Director: Prof. Dr. Hans Tietgens

Vice Director: Gabriele Kallmeyer (1980), Herbert Bohn (1981 - 1982), Dr. Monika Völker (1983 - 1986), Klaus Pehl (1986 - 1987), Klaus Meisel (since 1988)


Suggestion and support of professionalization attempt by adult education centres with the development and introduction of a certificate programme (for languages as well as mathematics and science) as well as a programme for the professional introduction of educational staff and the development and publication of differentiated autodidactic material.

Development and operation of an examination centre for certification programme.

Support of research in the field of adult education; support of research projects particularly historical research.

Beginning of institutional funding by Federal Ministry for Education and Science (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Wissenschaft) in 1971 and the joint research funding by the federal government and the states – the so called “Blue List” (1976). During that decade, the institute gains political support and is able to grow significantly in terms of personnel and funding. Internal reorganization of management and system: separation of institutionally funded tasks and projects, systemization according to programme areas, certificate departments and examination centre.

Board of Directors:

Director: Prof. Dr. Hans Tietgens (since 1978 professor at University of Marburg)

Vice Director: Dr. Volker Otto (1974-1976), Albert Pflüger (1977-1978), Gabriele Kallmeyer (1979)


The publication programme is initiated; several publication series are established (Theory and Practice of Adult Education - Theorie und Praxis der Erwachsenenbildung, materials for adult education, bibliographies on adult education).

Development and introduction of statistics on adult education centres: The first official statistics refer to 1962.

Support of adult education centres and professional exchange by developing working and teaching material (specifically loose-leaf manual for directors and staff of adult education centres “Handbuch für die Praxis des VHS-Leiters und Mitarbeiters“) as well as the development and support of special commissions and working groups for various thematic fields.

Expansion of library and development of documentation and archives. Acquisition and reconditioning of estates by significant adult educators. Establishment of archive for work plans of adult education centres.

Support of academic research on topics of adult education.

Initial steps for international cooperation.

Director: Dr. Hans Tietgens (since 1960 after Dr. Strelewitz vocation to professorship for sociology at the Pedagogical University of Hanover, later University of Hanover)


Tasks (PAS Report 1959): Basic steps for the development of an institute for the

  • scientific research on adult education,
  • work development, and
  • systematic development and continuing education of staff.

During the first years, the focus is on the quality of the programmes, as well as on the instructors‘ approaches and their qualifications at adult education centres in Germany.

Establishment of a library and documentation work conducted in adult education centres.

Director: Dr. Willy Strzelewicz


Photo: Sandra Seifen

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