Opportunity and Conditions to Learn (OCL): A conceptual framework

Year: 2017

Author: Perry, Laura, Their, Michael, Beach, Paul, Anderson, Ross, Roberts, Phillip, Niklas, Max

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Mathematics education researchers first evoked "opportunity to learn" as a construct in the 1960s, referring to the amount of time spent teaching particular concepts. In five decades since, "opportunity to learn" has evolved into an umbrella phrase for describing a large range of structures and processes across various sub-fields of education. As the concept has expanded in scope and use, it has become increasingly difficult to define, conceptualise and operationalise. This study aims to create a cohesive and comprehensive framework to conceptualize the contexts, structures and processes that mediate "opportunity to learn." While acknowledging that the subjects of human learning are infinite, we limit our framework to the knowledge and skills that are typically but not exclusively taught in schools. We seek to provide a detailed and inclusive birds' eye mapping of the myriad manifestations that scholars have ascribed to "opportunity to learn." Casting a wide net, we include in our framework all processes and structures that prior research has related to "opportunity to learn", including structures and processes that mediate learning directly. We also include conditions that mediate learning indirectly; while not being opportunities per se, the conditions that we highlight mediate the nature and extent to which opportunities to learn can be provided. For example, regular reading with a parent at home is an opportunity to learn; parent income is a condition because it may support the occurrence of this opportunity. We map both opportunities and conditions at micro, meso, and macro levels. These include opportunities and conditions to learn that are provided in or by the home environment; classroom; school; neighbourhood/community; education authorities that encompass districts, regions, nations, and supranational entities; and larger social and economic forces, actors, and contexts. We conclude with examples of how the framework could be used as an analytical tool to inform future research.