Learning to govern: a typology of ministerial learning styles

John Boswell, Jessica C. Smith, Daniel Devine, Jack Corbett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


A quirk of the Westminster system is that Ministers invariably have to “learn on the job”. Yet “learning” has been surprisingly understudied in work on executive government in Britain especially. In this paper, we offer a systematic account of Ministerial learning based on a comprehensive analysis of the Ministers Reflect archive—the largest dataset of research interviews with former Westminster ministers ever assembled. We identify six distinct learning styles—incremental, risk-averse, managerial, creative, instrumental and instinctive—and assess the implications for how Ministers adjust to the challenges of high political office. We conclude by showing what an appreciation for this variety of Ministerial learning styles can offer the study and practice of executive government in Britain and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalPublic Administration
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

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