The big-fish-little-pond effect and a national policy of within-school ability streaming: Alternative frames of reference

Gregory Arief D. LIEM, Herbert W. MARSH, Andrew J. MARTIN, Dennis Michael MCINERNEY, Alexander S. YEUNG

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Abstract

The big-fish-little-pond effect (BFLPE) was evaluated with 4,461 seventh to ninth graders in Singapore where a national policy of ability streaming is implemented. Consistent with the BFLPE, when prior achievement was controlled, students in the high-ability stream had lower English and mathematics self-concepts (ESCs and MSCs) and those in the lower-ability stream had higher ESCs and MSCs. Consistent with the local-dominance effect, the effect of stream-average achievement on ESCs and MSCs was more negative than—and completely subsumed—the negative effect of school-average achievement. However, stream-average achievement was stronger than, or as strong as, the more local class-average achievement. Taken together, findings highlight the potential interplay of a local dominance effect with variability and/or salience of target comparisons in academic self-concept formations. Copyright © 2012 AERA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-370
JournalAmerican Educational Research Journal
Volume50
Issue number2
Early online dateApr 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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ability
school
self-concept
concept formation
Singapore
mathematics
student

Citation

Liem, G. A. D., Marsh, H. W., Martin, A. J., McInerney, D. M., & Yeung, A. S. (2013). The big-fish-little-pond effect and a national policy of within-school ability streaming: Alternative frames of reference. American Educational Research Journal, 50(2), 326-370.

Keywords

  • Academic self-concept
  • Big-fish-little-pond effect
  • Singapore
  • Ability stream
  • Social comparison