An explicitly multilevel or contextual theory in education is the so called ‘frog pond’ theory, which refers to the idea that a specific individual frog may either be a small frog in a pond otherwise filled with large frogs, or a large frog in a pond otherwise filled with small frogs. Applied to education, this metaphor points out that the effect of an explanatory variable such as ‘intelligence’ on school career may depend on the average intelligence of the other pupils in the schooL A moderately intelligent pupil in a highly intelligent context may become demotivated and thus become an underachiever, while the same pupil in a considerably less intelligent context may gain confidence and become an overachiever. Thus, the effect of an individual pupil’s intelligence depends on the average intelligence of the other pupils. A popular approach in educational research to investigate ‘frog pond’ effects has been to aggregate variables like the pupils’ IQ into group means, and then to disaggregate these group means again to the individual level. As a result, the data file contains both individual level (global) variables and higher-level (contextual) variables in the form of disaggregated group means.
Source: Hox, J. J. (2002). Multilevel analysis: Techniques and applications. Psychology Press.
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