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Findings support the BFLPE and are remarkably robust, generalizing over a wide variety of different individual student and contextual level characteristics, settings, countries, longterm followups, and research designs.The results also have important policy implications for the ways in which schools are organized (e.g., ability grouping, tracking, selective schools, gifted education programs, etc.).) suggested that: the BFLPE might be a short-term, ephemeral effect; noted situations in which there might be positive effects of school-average ability on ASC that is claimed to be inconsistent with BFLPE predictions; argued that there might be a number of individual student or contextual characteristics that moderate the BFLPE; contrasted BFLPE research in educational settings with social psychological research based on social comparison theory (SCT); and emphasized seemingly contradictory evidence from gifted education research.Because of the importance of ASC in predicting future achievement, coursework selection, and educational attainment, the results have important implications for the way in which schools are organized (e.g., tracking, ability grouping, academically selective schools, and gifted education programs). The authors would also like to express thanks to David Dai and Anne Rinn for their encouragement and assistance to us in preparation of our article, whilst still acknowledging that they might not agree will all the views expressed here.In its simplest form, the big-fish–little-pond effect (BFLPE) predicts that students have lower academic self-concepts (ASC) when attending schools where the average ability levels of other students is high compared to equally able students attending schools where the school-average ability is low.In relation to educational research, this level of cross-cultural generalizability is remarkably strong.
Importantly, this general ASC can also be broken into components related to broad academic disciplines (e.g., math and verbal self-concepts) as well as even more specific components of academic self-concept related to specific school subjects (e.g., history, English, foreign language, mathematics, computer studies, science, etc.; see Marsh ) demonstrated that support for the BFLPE was highly domain specific; whilst ASC was strongly influenced by individual student achievement (positively) and school-average achievement (negatively), neither individual nor school-average achievement had much effect on either global self-esteem or non-academic components of self-concept.
The big-fish–little-pond effect (BFLPE) predicts that equally able students have lower academic self-concepts (ASCs) when attending schools where the average ability levels of classmates is high, and higher ASCs when attending schools where the school-average ability is low.
BFLPE findings are remarkably robust, generalizing over a wide variety of different individual student and contextual level characteristics, settings, countries, long-term follow-ups, and research designs. Rev., ), we summarize the theoretical model underlying the BFLPE, minimal conditions for testing the BFLPE, support for its robust generalizability, its relation to social comparison theory, and recent research extending previous implications, demonstrating that the BFLPE stands up to scrutiny.
Next we compare and contrast these aspects of the BFLPE based largely on educational psychology research with relevant SCT research based largely on social psychology research, as SCT seems to provide an alternative perspective to the BFLPE in terms of theory, methods, and empirical findings.
Whereas the focus of the BFLPE is on ASC, it is also relevant to evaluate the implications for academic achievement and performance—particularly in the context of tracking, ability grouping, and special provision for gifted education.