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Inside Teaching : October 2010
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org RESEARCH 43 to the performance of their classmates, they may descend into a cycle in which their self- concept and their performance are continually impaired. As part of her PhD study, Dr Seaton analysed the self- concepts of students in 41 countries. The findings revealed that, in 38 of the 41 countries, irrespective of culture or economic background: • students in high-ability settings have lower academic self-concepts than students of similar ability in low- or average-ability settings, and • the higher the average ability of the student cohort in a school, the greater the negative influence on students’ academic self-concept. Dr Seaton’s results raise important questions about the ‘big-fish-little-pond-effect’ and the suitability of the Australian selective school system for some students. In Australia today, most students are educated within the comprehensive system, although a small number of selective schools are also in operation. New South Wales has the most selective schools, with 21 fully selective and 23 partially selective schools, while Queensland and Victoria each have three. Ability grouping also occurs at the class level in Australia. Within the comprehensive system, students are segregated or streamed according to ability – typically for maths and English and often for additional academic subjects – and, to combat the growing popularity of academically selective schools in NSW, some comprehensive high schools have introduced segregated classes for high- ability students. ‘Consider,’ says Dr Seaton, ‘two equally able students who are in their first year of high school.