Can we change the size of the pond? Future directions for big-fish-little-pond effect research

Year: 2005

Author: Seaton, Marjorie, Craven, Rhonda, Marsh, Herb

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Big-fish-little-pond effect (BFLPE) research has demonstrated that frame of reference effects impact upon self-concept and other desirable educational outcomes. However, while the validity and the generalizability of the BFLPE have been extensively demonstrated in 26 countries (Marsh & Hau, 2003), these countries were mostly industrialised, western countries. Furthermore, researchers (e.g. Marsh, 1991) have advocated that identifying individual differences among students would be a valuable tool in developing policies to maximize the benefits of attending academically selective schools, but these differences have not as yet been examined. Additionally, researchers have proposed that social comparison processes are responsible for the BFLPE, but this hypothesis has not been investigated fully. The purpose of this paper is to explore directions for future research that would address these concerns. It outlines ways in which the recently expanded Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) database (OECD, 2001) could be utilised to: ascertain whether the BFLPE extends to non-industrialized and non-western countries to provide even stronger support for the BFLPE's validity and generalizability; and elucidate some of the moderators of the BFLPE. Methods to explore the impact of social comparison processes on the BFLPE are also explored. Preliminary results are presented and implications for educational policy discussed.