The role of schools in providing educational opportunity: An integrative review

Heidi Katz*, Emmanuel Acquah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Article or Literature Reviewpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


The concept of educational opportunity is ubiquitous yet ambiguous; it is frequently discussed within the education world, yet there is no commonly shared understanding of what it means or how to measure it. To address this void, we conducted an integrative review of the literature on school inputs and student outcomes from 2010 to 2019. A total of 39 articles were included in this review, and analysed using a mixed methods approach. A descriptive analysis showed the studies used a range of research designs, including case study (n = 7), comparative (n = 6), correlational and longitudinal (n = 5), exploratory (n = 4), cross-sectional (n = 3), and phenomenological (n = 2). Furthermore, studies were conducted within a variety of primary through secondary school contexts (e.g., public, charter and vocational). A deductive analysis revealed that more than half of the studies looked at cognitive outcomes (n = 25), followed by psychological (n = 22), behavioural (n = 17), and then other (n = 6). Finally, grounded theory was used to analyse specific school factors (inputs) that influence the aforementioned outcomes positively. We identified four input categories through which educational opportunity generally manifests: Inclusive Culture and Environment, Responsive Teaching and Appropriate Training, Resources and Opportunity to Learn, and Curriculum and Instruction. Based on the results, we developed a conceptual framework of educational opportunity that connects school inputs to positive student outcomes. The framework can be used by researchers and educators to inform discussions and assessments of educational opportunity. Context and implications Rationale for this study Schools worldwide aim to provide equitable opportunities that result in positive student outcomes. However, there is widespread disagreement between both educators and educational researchers as to what educational opportunity means and looks like in practice. Why the new findings matter This study seeks to bring clarity to the topic through an integrative review that synthesises the research on school inputs that lead to positive student outcomes. Implications for educators, educational researchers and policy makers This review resulted in the development of a conceptual framework of educational opportunity. The framework is not prescriptive, but can be adapted based on the needs, goals and values of the school and students. This framework has implications for teachers, school leaders, policy makers and educational researchers who can use it as a tool to assess educational opportunity and inform educational practices. Most importantly, the framework can be used to help improve equity in educational opportunities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3307
JournalReview of Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2021
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


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