Nonlinear relations between achievement and academic self-concepts in elementary and secondary school: An integrative data analysis across 13 countries

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It is well-documented that academic achievement is associated with students’ self-perceptions of their academic abilities, that is, their academic self-concepts. However, low-achieving students may apply self-protective strategies to maintain a favorable academic self-concept when evaluating their academic abilities. Consequently, the relation between achievement and academic self-concept might not be linear across the entire achievement continuum. Capitalizing on representative data from three large-scale assessments (i.e., TIMSS, PIRLS, PISA; N = 470,804), we conducted an integrative data analysis to address nonlinear trends in the relations between achievement and the corresponding self-concepts in mathematics and the verbal domain across 13 countries and two age groups (i.e., elementary and secondary school students). Polynomial and interrupted regression analyses showed nonlinear relations in secondary school students, demonstrating that the relations between achievement and the corresponding self-concepts were weaker for lower achieving students than for higher achieving students. Nonlinear effects were also present in younger students, but the pattern of results was rather heterogeneous. We discuss implications for theory as well as for the assessment and interpretation of self-concept.

Journal of Educational Psychology

Supplementary materials (including R code) can be accessed via OSF.

Lena Kristina Keller
Lena Kristina Keller

Psychologist, empirical educational research, quantitative methods enthusiast