One fish fits all? The big-fish-little-pond effect and individual differences in learning

Year: 2008

Author: Seaton, Marjorie, Craveny, Rhonda G., Marsh, Herbert

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The big-fish-little-pond effect (BFLPE) postulates that students who attend academically selective schools have lower academic self-concepts than equally able students in average- and low-ability schools. Researchers (e.g., Marsh, 1991) have suggested that by identifying individual differences between students that moderate the negative effects of the BFLPE, policies may be identified that maximize the benefits of attending academically selective schools. However, to date there has been limited success in this endeavour. Utilising the 2003 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) database (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2005a, 2005b) the present study identified potential moderators of the BFLPE that encompassed individual differences in the way in which students approach learning. Although many of the constructs investigated had a moderating effect on the BFLPE, these interaction effects were small and as the sample was particularly large, it was concluded that the BFLPE generalised well across these individual student characteristics.