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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). The authors would also like to express thanks to David Dai and Anne Rinn for their encouragement and assistance to us in preparation of our article, whilst still acknowledging that they might not agree will all the views expressed here.
In its simplest form, the big-fish–little-pond effect (BFLPE) predicts that students have lower academic self-concepts (ASC) when attending schools where the average ability levels of other students is high compared to equally able students attending schools where the school-average ability is low.
We believe that in both reviews the authors painted an overly simplistic—in some cases erroneous—picture of some of the theoretical issues that have been addressed in BFLPE research and then critiqued our research in relation to their limited interpretation of our research.
Hence, in this article we highlight theoretical issues and research findings that counter Dai and Rinn’s interpretations of our work and their conclusions.
From here we move to a discussion of individual and school characteristics that are potential moderators of the BFLPE and the policy implications of this research.
Finally, we conclude with a brief summary of some ongoing statistical and methodological issues in BFLPE research, progress in addressing these issues, and directions for future research.
In response to the Dai () replicated support for the cross-cultural generalizability of the BFLPE, demonstrated that the BFLPE generalized across collectivist and individualist cultures and across economically developing and developed nations, and that the BFLPE effect size (0.49) was sufficiently large to warrant practical attention as well as being substantively and theoretically important.This is predicted to result in Y having a below-average ASC.However, if Y attends a low-ability school (i.e., a school where the school-average ability is below the average across all schools), then Y would be above the average ability level in this school, leading to an above average ASC.Findings support the BFLPE and are remarkably robust, generalizing over a wide variety of different individual student and contextual level characteristics, settings, countries, longterm followups, and research designs.The results also have important policy implications for the ways in which schools are organized (e.g., ability grouping, tracking, selective schools, gifted education programs, etc.).) suggested that: the BFLPE might be a short-term, ephemeral effect; noted situations in which there might be positive effects of school-average ability on ASC that is claimed to be inconsistent with BFLPE predictions; argued that there might be a number of individual student or contextual characteristics that moderate the BFLPE; contrasted BFLPE research in educational settings with social psychological research based on social comparison theory (SCT); and emphasized seemingly contradictory evidence from gifted education research.