Inah Park Abstract

Modesty vs. Low Self-Concept: Explaining the Negative Self-Concept/Achievement Correlation in Mathematics Across Nations

Inah Park
PhD student, Combined Program in Education and Psychology
2012-2013 KF Fellow

Psychologists and theorists have long believed that students’ positive attitudes and self-perceptions of their competence positively influence their academic outcomes. However, large scale international data such as TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) has consistently displayed a peculiar paradox that refutes existing psychological models regarding this relationship. That is, when considering students’ self-reports of their attitudes such as academic self-concept, some countries situated among the top in mathematics achievement such as Korea tend to score among the lowest on these attitudinal measures. One possible explanation for this phenomenon is the “modesty bias” which claims that students from some – particularly Asian – cultures tend to disguise their private self-assessment in compliance with social modesty norms. Using three waves of TIMSS data, 2003, 2007, 2011, the modesty hypothesis was tested by addition of national average self-concept at predictor in a three-level hierarchical model. Results confirm a modesty bias to a certain extent, but the effect does not eliminate the negative self-concept/achievement correlation on country level.

This event is co-sponsored by the Korean Foundation, Academy of Korean Studies.