Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice


Steven Hecht

Committee Member

Dana Mills

Committee Member

Kimberly Durham


Big-Fish-Little-Pond effect, Dimensional Comparison Theory, math self-concept, multilevel modeling, science self-concept, TIMSS 2019


Self-concept is an important construct across a variety of disciplines as a facilitator of a full range of human potential. Big Fish Little Pond Effect (BFLPE) results have confirmed global generalizability for the negative effects of school- and country- averaged achievement on students’ academic self-concept based on social comparisons with implications that generally discredit ability grouping, streaming or tracking. However, few studies have identified variables that ameliorate the negative effects of BFLPE. Accordingly, this study applied hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) in HLM 8.2 software to examine the effects of student, school, and country-level moderators of both school- and country-level BFLPE for STEM subjects. As a secondary analysis of TIMSS 2019 international, large-scale assessment results in math and science for a sample of 169,810 eight grade students in 5,410 school in 26 countries, these results revealed specific affective, cognitive, environmental, and financial factors that diminished and reversed the negative effects of school-and country-level BFLPE. Results also extended Marsh (2020) BFLPE-CE model and offer a standardized framework by which students can be more compatibly grouped, streamed or tracked. Furthermore, implications of these results for educational psychology suggest a hierarchical structure of the social comparison process whereby individuals have the greatest overall impact on their perceptions, but macro-level, unconscious cultural preprogramming is the overarching influence through which perceptions are filtered.