An investigation of the academic, emotional and social self concept of adolescent students with high academic achievement in three educational settings

Year: 1995

Author: Smith, Ian, Palmer, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The purpose of this research was to investigate which educational setting is the most conducive to the academic, emotional and social development of high achieving youth in Western Metropolitan Sydney. Current research regarding self-concept is generally not supportive of homogeneous grouping, yet researchers (e.g. Gross, 1993a, Braggett, 1993) argue for the need to provide such a facility for the optimal development of high achieving students. This study extends previous research by
examining three educational settings. Many studies have examined the differences in the self-concept of students in regular classes and pull-out programs (e.g. Renzulli, 1987; VanTassel-Baska, 1987), while others have measured the effects of school average ability on academic achievement using an American population (Marsh, 1991), yet other studies have examined the big-fish-little-pond effect on data collected decades ago, with an American sample comprising only one gender (Marsh, 1987; Bachman & O'Malley, 1986). Australian studies have been limited to either a primary school population (Marsh & Parker, 1984; Marsh, 1986b; Marsh, Chessor, Craven & Roche, 1995) or a single Catholic boys' school sampled in only one grade (Marsh, 1990d; Marsh, 1992). There is a lack of well documented Australian research that analyses the affect of a variety of educational settings across a number of school grades.

This research project fills that void. Unlike previous research, this investigation has examined the academic, emotional and social self-concept of high achieving students in three high schools, each with a distinctly different educational setting. Data were collected from a selective high school, a comprehensive high school with a streamed classroom setting, and a comprehensive high school with a mixed ability classroom setting. In addition, studies examining the effects of school setting on self-concept have typically involved large scale quantitative analysis. However this study has incorporated a degree of qualitative analysis to elicit rich data from the sample.

Furthermore, this study has sampled students in two school grades: Year 8 and Year 9. The purpose of the two school years was to obtain a greater population sample from each school so that some general comments about each school could be made with a certain degree of accuracy and generality. Due to the nature of the NSW curriculum regarding students' preparation for the School Certificate and High School Certificate, it was not possible to obtain a greater number of school years to participate in the study, as students were necessarily streamed in preparation for their exams. However, such a sample size is desirable.