Policy learning designates the cognitive and social dynamic leading policy actors to revise or strengthen their policy beliefs and preferences over time. In this chapter, we propose a synthesis of existing research on policy learning. We distinguish three main sets of approaches – namely, the ‘managerialist’ approaches, ‘diffusion and convergence’ approaches, as well as ‘social learning’ approaches – before pointing to their common characteristics: a consideration for the long run; a focus on the role of state but also non-state actors in policy processes; and a recognition that policy actors’ rationality is ‘bounded’. Then, we discuss three challenges of future research: deepening our knowledge on the behavioural aspects of policy learning; recognizing and studying the multiple outcomes of policy learning; and looking for settings and practices fostering or impeding policy learning.

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Department of Public Administration and Sociology (DPAS)

Scholten, P. (2018). Theories on policy learning: existing approaches and future challenges. In Knowledge, policymaking and learning for European cities and regions. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/113574