Policy Literacy: Exploring Effective Participation for Researchers in Policy Making


  • What does it mean to become policy literate? 
  • What are the benefits of developing policy literacy? 
  • What are the disciplines, and key readings, that inform us on how to ‘read’ policy? 
  • How can we develop skills (knowledge, awareness, capability) to participate in and help direct policy settings? 
  • What is the relationship between knowledge or expertise and power or authority?
  • What are effective ways to link research to decision-making authority and decision-making processes?
  • What is a ‘problem’ as understood in policy making circles?
  • How can we plan and conduct research or project work in such a way as to enhance its traction in policy?

The sequence of activities undertaken as part of this Policy Literacy workshop will delve into both theoretical and applied literature to pose the above questions. We will explore the nuances and character of the link between research, or scholarship, and policy.  We will investigate ‘propitious moments’ in the policy process where it is most beneficial to have an impact on policy settings.  We will look at the special role of ‘program evaluation’ in shaping future policy. We will identify the various players (roles associated with influence, knowledge, or power) in the processes of policy making.  We will look to implementation as a critical point where policy designs sometimes/often falter and distinguish some of its features.

The aim of this is to stimulate us to think about our own work in relation to the question of policy; who makes policy, how is it made (conceived, designed, implemented and evaluated).

There will be a specific focus on language (teaching, learning and assessment) and its special role in policy, and some inherent challenges that are special if not unique to making language an object of policy.

A key assumption in this workshop is to explore the nature of language problems.

  • Who determines what is a language problem?
  • Why do some language problems get elevated to public policy attention and not others?
  • What is the process of agenda setting that is most amenable to input from researchers?
  • What is a policy window? How can researchers most effectively open such windows?

Are language problems objective, or easily discernible and agreed realities which we need to merely discover and then resolve?  Or are problems more fluid, capable of being understood and ‘represented’ in different ways?   What is the nature of language problems and how is this question relevant to having research and expertise impact on policy processes?

While the core component of the entire sequence is English, its present and predicted position in the world, policy examples, readings and activities will range beyond English into the wider communicative context.  Therefore, we will address issues of language ecology, the Dominant Language Constellation, language repertoire, testing and assessment, etc.

The workshop will involve input from the presenters and participation through exercises and discussion. There will be some pre-workshop reading and an exercise and a post-workshop exercise and reflection.

We look forward to an interesting and engaging day with you all!

Speakers: Joseph Lo Bianco and Mina Patel

Dr Joseph Lo Bianco

Portrait Dr Joseph Lo Bianco

Dr Joseph (Joe) Lo Bianco is professor emeritus in language and literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne, where until 2020 he was Chair Professor.  He is a language policy specialist combining academic research and hands-on policy engagement.  His theoretical and analytical studies of language problems and policy solutions have been conducted in many parts of the world especially in South and Southeast Asia, Oceania, North America, Europe and in some African countries (Ethiopia, South Africa and Tunisia).  Over three decades he has led multi-country language problem solving teams in Southeast Asia and advised the EU/Council of Europe and UN on multi-country language planning. 

He has been commissioned on this work by UNICEF, UNESCO, national governments and conducted assignments under World Bank funding.  He has collaborated with the British Council on many occasions. 

For several years he ran senior policy official and politician training in Bangkok for Asian officials, including the participation at ministerial level, attached to the UNESCO/UNICEF Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education process of the region.

Mina Patel

Portrait Mina Patel

Mina Patel is Head of Research – Future of English at the British Council. Her background is in English language teaching and training. She has worked in the UK, Greece, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Malaysia as a teacher, trainer, materials developer and project manager for ELT (English Language Teaching) projects and has extensive experience working with ministries of education in East Asia. Mina has presented at numerous national and international conferences on ELT-related topics. Her academic interests lie in the areas of language assessment literacy, teacher education and development and qualitative research methodology. She is currently a PhD student at the Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment (CRELLA) at the University of Bedfordshire, UK. Most recently, Mina has co-authored Future of English: Global Perspectives.

Logo British Council

This workshop is kindly sponsored by the British Council.

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