The Big-Fish-Little-Pond Effect on Mathematics Self Concept of Junior School Students in Academically Selective and Non-Selective Schools

Benson Adesina Adegoke


The “Big-Fish-Little-Pond Effect” (BFLPE), an application of social comparison theory of educational settings, posits that a student will have a lower academic self-concept in an academically selective school than in a non-selective school. Several studies have been conducted and results supporting and disagreeing with the theory have been documented. However, most of these studies were conducted in Europe, United States of America (USA), Asia and Australia. Relatively none has been conducted in an African setting and indeed in West Africa. The present study was therefore designed to provide empirical information on the tenability of the hypothesis in African setting. Three hundred and twenty eight Junior Secondary School Two (JSS II) students randomly selected from two schools (one academically selective school N= 194 and one non-selective school N = 124) in Ibadan, Nigeria, participated in the study.

The responses of the students to mathematics self-concept questionnaire and their annual scores in Mathematics in JSS I were analysed using Pearson Correlation Coefficient, One-way Analysis of Variance andtwo-level multi-level models in which students (level 1) were nested within schools (level 2). Results show that there was a positive relationship between individual student’s annual score in mathematics and mathematics self-concept. High ability students had higher mathematics self-concept than low ability students. This was observed among the students in both schools. However, the mean score, in mathematics self-concept, of students in academically selective schools was higher than the mean score of students in non-selective schools. The two-level multilevel analyses models showed that individual student achievement in mathematics had positive and statistically significant effect on mathematics self-concept. This result laid credence on the findings of Marsh and his colleagues. However, school-average achievement in mathematics had non-significant negative effect on mathematics self-concept.

These results show that mathematics self-concept may not be a function of whether the school is academically selective or non-selective. Therefore attending academically selective schoolmay not be detrimental for high ability student if he or she can maintain his or her high ability level.The result of the present study is a challenge to assertions of BFLPE, at least from an African setting.

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Journal of Studies in Education ISSN 2162-6952


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