The Big-Fish-Little-Pond-Effect stands up to critical scrutiny: Implications for theory, methodology, and future research

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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. 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). In response to Dai and Rinn (Educ. Psychol. Rev., 2008), 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.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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