An Integrated Model of Academic Self-Concept Development: Academic Self-Concept, Grades, Test Scores, and Tracking Over 6 Years

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Abstract

Our newly proposed integrated academic self-concept model integrates 3 major theories of academic self-concept formation and developmental perspectives into a unified conceptual and methodological framework. Relations among math self-concept (MSC), school grades, test scores, and school-level contextual effects over 6 years, from the end of primary school through the first 5 years of secondary school (a representative sample of 3,370 German students, 42 secondary schools, 50% male, M age at grade 5 = 11.75) support the (1) internal/external frame of reference model: Math school grades had positive effects on MSC, but the effects of German grades were negative; (2) reciprocal effects (longitudinal panel) model: MSC was predictive of and predicted by math test scores and school grades; (3) big-fish-little-pond effect: The effects on MSC were negative for school-average achievement based on 4 indicators (primary school grades in math and German, school-track prior to the start of secondary school, math test scores in the first year of secondary school). Results for all 3 theoretical models were consistent across the 5 secondary school years: This supports the prediction of developmental equilibrium. This integration highlights the robustness of support over the potentially volatile early to middle adolescent period; the interconnectedness and complementarity of 3 ASC models; their counterbalancing strengths and weaknesses; and new theoretical, developmental, and substantive implications at their intersections.

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