The University of Tartu has conferred the degree of Honorary Doctor of Education on Professor P. Robert-Jan Simons for his outstanding contribution to promoting and strengthening educational research at the University of Tartu and in Estonia, and improving the international visibility of our researchers.
P. Robert-Jan Simons was born on 15 May 1949 in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). He received his PhD from Tilburg University in 1981 and thereafter worked as a junior research fellow and later senior research fellow at the same university. In 1990, he was elected the professor of educational psychology at the University of Nijmegen, where he also directed the NUOVO Research Institute in the Faculty of Social Sciences 1997–2001. From there, Simons went on to Utrecht University, where he held the position of the professor of educational sciences and focused on using the ICT in learning. In 2001–2010, he was the head of the educational technology centre and in 2006–2010, the dean of the IVLOS Institute of Education at Utrecht University. In 2014, Robert-Jan Simons was elected professor emeritus at the University of Utrecht, and he set up his own company Visie op leren to shape the vision of education. In 2010–2014, he was also the director of the Netherlands School of Educational Management, an Amsterdam-based institution for school leaders.
Professor Simons is a broad-based educator and visionary and the spokesperson of the modern learning paradigm. He was the co-founder and president of Europe’s most reputable organisation for bringing together educators – the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI). He is also an educational innovator, well-known mostly in Europe and elsewhere, publishing numerous research articles and books (for example, New Learning, 2000), and taking part as a keynote speaker in international conferences, including in Estonia, for example, the Estonian EU Council Presidency Conference Contemporary Approaches to Learning and Teaching in 2017).
During his research career, Professor Simons has developed knowledge in several areas of educational sciences and psychology. In the psychology of learning, for example, he has developed original positions on learning styles, effective learning environments, cooperative learning and learning communities; in organisational psychology, his focus is on the empowerment of people, learning at workplace, learning organisations and change management in organisations, and in developmental psychology, on the topics of cognitive, social and personal development.
In his later career, Professor Simons has mainly focused on the use of educational technology in learning and offered original approaches to studying and developing digital pedagogy, online communities and electronic learning environments. He is also a renowned educational consultant who has cooperated with a number of institutions and enterprises in the Netherlands and offered them masterclasses and expert advice in various fields such as learning and development, supervising and development at the workplace and thought patterns related to learning.
Professor Simons has an invaluable role in strengthening the doctoral studies in educational sciences, developing the innovative master’s programmes, such as Educational Innovation and Educational Technology, and teaching lectures and workshops at the University of Tartu. He has made it possible for researchers of the University of Tartu to join internationally recognised networks, e.g. EARLI. He has also made a significant contribution to several research projects in the University of Tartu, for example Smart technologies and digital literacy in promoting a change of learning. Since 2015, Robert-Jan Simons has been a visiting professor at the University of Tartu.