Can learning contribute to fundamental policy change? A constructivist perspective on expertise and change in Dutch migrant integration

Scholten, P.

Published in Policy & Society, 36:2, 345-363. 

The article is available here. Is is part of a special issue edited together with S. Moyson and C. Weible, which is accessible here


This article zooms in on the role of policy learning in non-incremental policy change. Can policy learning contribute to ‘policy punctuations’ or ‘paradigmatic change’? This question is addressed from a constructivist angle. Within the constructivist approach debate rages on whether, and if so under what conditions, there could be a relationship between policy learning and policy change. The discourse coalition framework renounces the cognitivist concept of policy learning, whereas the critical frame analysis framework claims that critical reflection at the level of policy frames can lead to fundamental ‘frame shifts’. This article reviews these two constructivist frameworks for policy analysis in terms of how they conceptualize and theorize the relation between policy learning and policy change. Besides offering a discussion of the theoretical assumptions of the two constructivist approaches that have been selected, this article offers an empirical congruence analysis of learning and change. This congruence analysis will be applied to one specific case: migrant integration policy-making in the Netherlands (2000–2015). This involves a clear case study where various non-incremental policy changes have taken place, from an integrationist to an assimilationist approach, which makes it a revelatory case for an in-depth study of policy learning and policy change.