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Understanding Underachievement

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Abstract

Up to 50% of gifted children underachieve at some point in their school career; therefore, it is an important issue for parents and educators to address. Underachievement affects children from high as well as low socioeconomic groups. It affects urban as well as rural students. In this chapter, I review factors associated with underachievement and suggest strategies to address the underachievement of gifted children. While no single strategy works with all underachievers, a combination of counseling and instructional interventions show the greatest promise.
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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018
S. I. Pfeiffer (ed.), Handbook of Giftedness in Children,
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-77004-8_16
Understanding Underachievement
DelSiegle
Abstract
Up to 50% of gifted children underachieve at
some point in their school career; therefore, it
is an important issue for parents and educators
to address. Underachievement affects children
from high as well as low socioeconomic
groups. It affects urban as well as rural stu-
dents. In this chapter, I review factors associ-
ated with underachievement and suggest
strategies to address the underachievement of
gifted children. While no single strategy works
with all underachievers, a combination of
counseling and instructional interventions
show the greatest promise.
Understanding Underachievement
Underachievement involves a set of complex
issues that vary across students. Individuals
underachieve for a number of different reasons,
and no single intervention effectively reverses
underachievement for every individual. As a
group, underachievers differ more from each
other than achievers differ from each other
(McCoach & Siegle, 2003a, 2003b). Siegle
(2013) reviewed categories of underachievers
proposed by Rimm (1997), Heacox (1991), and
Mandel and Marcus (1995) and suggested that
they fall into 17 different types of underachiev-
ers. Therefore, any list of characteristics of
underachievers will contain items that t some,
but not all underachievers. Educators and parents
often view underachievement synonymously
with low motivation. Although underachieve-
ment often is the product of low motivation, low
motivation and underachievement are not the
same. In this chapter, I dene underachievement;
provide reasons why children identied as gifted
might underachieve; and share promising theo-
ries and solutions to address it.
Over a quarter century ago, Emerick (1992)
noted:
The gifted underachiever has been described as
one of the greatest social wastes of our culture.
Beyond social cost, however, there are personal
wastes as well---opportunities for advanced educa-
tional experiences and personal development are
thwarted by academic underachievement. Today,
there is no problem more perplexing or frustrating
than the situation in which a bright child cannot or
will not perform at an academic level commensu-
rate with his or her intellectual ability. (p.140)
Emerick’s statement brings to light two value
issues related to underachievement. First, do
individuals have an obligation to society and
themselves to develop their talents? Is it alright to
“get by” without achieving high levels of perfor-
mance? Second, who determines what talents
individuals should develop? Is a highly gifted
D. Siegle (*)
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
e-mail: del.siegle@uconn.edu
16
286
mathematician who chooses a career in music an
underachiever because she did not develop her
mathematics ability? In some sense, whether an
individual is underachieving is “in the eye of the
beholder” and what the beholder values. Many
underachievers report that they are doing “just
ne” and want those who are pressing them to
perform better to “get off their back.” As Reis and
McCoach (2000) noted, “Labeling a student an
underachiever requires making a value judgment
about the worthiness of certain accomplishments.
A teacher may believe that reading Huckleberry
Finn is more worthwhile than mastering a new
video game, but a child may not” (p. 156).
Peterson (2001) cautioned that educators and
parents should not make future judgements about
individuals based on problems experienced dur-
ing a specic period of time or during some
developmental stage. She also suggested that stu-
dents who are achieving at something should not
be a concern. Peterson noted that underachieve-
ment becomes an issue when it limits what an
individual wants to do. For example, mediocre
grades become an issue when a student wished to
attend a prestigious university. Therefore, educa-
tors and parents must address under performance
behaviors that limit future options.
What Is Underachievement?
Underachievement in gifted children is difcult
to dene for two reasons. First, the eld of gifted
education has not agreed upon a common deni-
tion for giftedness. Second, researchers and prac-
titioners dene underachievement differently.
Readers will nd a discussion of what giftedness
is and how to identify it in Chapters 1-3 and 12 of
this handbook. For the purpose of discussion, I
will use the National Association for Gifted
Children denition developed by a panel of
respected practitioners and eminent scholars in
the eld and approved by the NAGC Board of
Directors in 2010:
Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate out-
standing levels of aptitude (dened as an excep-
tional ability to reason and learn) or competence
(documented performance or achievement in top
10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains
include any structured area of activity with its own
symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, lan-
guage) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g.,
painting, dance, sports).
The development of ability or talent is a lifelong
process. It can be evident in young children as
exceptional performance on tests and/or other
measures of ability or as a rapid rate of learning,
compared to other students of the same age, or in
actual achievement in a domain. As individuals
mature through childhood to adolescence, how-
ever, achievement and high levels of motivation in
the domain become the primary characteristics of
their giftedness. Various factors can either enhance
or inhibit the development and expression of
abilities.
This thoughtful denition notes that gifted-
ness can involve aptitude as well as competence
and that, ultimately, as individuals mature they
must achieve. Gifted underachievers would be
those individuals who fail to ultimately develop
their potential. McCoach and Siegle (2003a,
2003b) suggested, “The key features that distin-
guish gifted achievers from gifted underachievers
are the goals they set for themselves and effort
they put forth to achieve these goals” (p.151).
The traditional denition of underachievement is
a discrepancy between potential and performance
(Reis & McCoach, 2002). How each is measured
produces a different type of underachiever
(Rimm, 2008a). Within the eld of gifted educa-
tion, educators often have measured potential
with an IQ test and achievement with achieve-
ment tests or grades. Underachievement would
be a discrepancy between the IQ and either
grades or achievement test scores. However,
achievement test scores can also be considered a
measure of potential and grades the measure of
performance. Emerick (1988) conducted some of
the early research on gifted underachievement.
She proposed six different discrepancy
combinations:
High IQ score and low achievement test scores
High IQ score and low grades
High achievement test scores and low grades
High indicators of intellectual, creative poten-
tial and low creative productivity
High indicators of potential and limited pres-
ence of appropriate opportunity for intellec-
tual and creative development
D. Siegle
287
Whatever the combination, a number of fac-
tors need to be considered when making com-
parisons between potential and achievement.
Some gifted students do not want to appear smart,
so they avoid demonstrating their ability. Students
can be test anxious, and not perform to their full
potential (Moore, 2006). Twice-exceptional stu-
dents may be dyslexic or have a learning disabil-
ity that interferes with demonstrating their ability.
Grades do not always reect what students know
or have learned.
The discrepancy between high IQ and low
achievement scores can exist for a number of rea-
sons. Individually administered IQ tests require
less reading than achievement tests. Therefore,
gifted students with a reading disability may per-
form lower on the achievement assessment.
Moon and Hall (1998) warned that gifted stu-
dents who are underachieving should be screened
for a learning disability. Rimm (2008a) also sug-
gested that a gifted student may be experiencing
test anxiety when taking achievement tests that
results in lower than expected achievement
scores. She also suggested that unchallenging
curriculum can lead gifted students to demon-
strate defensive patterns through which they
avoid achievement, thus resulting in poor
achievement test scores. Others (Kanevsky &
Keighley, 2003) have also reported unchalleng-
ing curriculum can lead to underachievement.
Grades often do not reect what students
know, so that discrepancy between grades and IQ
can be misleading. Gifted students may choose
not to complete homework assignments, which
results in lower grades. “Homework completion,
another indicator of academic engagement,
appears to be a struggle for many gifted students
who underachieve and/or choose to leave high
school” (Landis & Reschly, 2013, p.230). Some
believe that students who manage to learn new
material each year and perform well on their
achievement tests, but do not complete and do
poorly on classroom work, could be considered
“selective producers” instead of underachievers
(Delisle & Galbraith, 2002).
The discrepancy between high achievement
test scores and low grades is particularly trou-
bling for educators and parents. Although grades
are less reliable than standardized measures of
academic achievement, they are an indication of
a student’s current level of achievement within a
classroom environment. In addition, to some
extent, grades also reect students’ motivation.
The largest longitudinal study of underachievers
conducted to date (McCall, Evahn, & Kratzer,
1992) highlighted the importance of classroom
grades. McCall et al. found that 13 years after
high school, the educational and occupational
status of high school underachievers paralleled
their grades in high school, rather than their abili-
ties. They also found that underachievers
appeared to have greater difculty completing
college and remaining in their jobs and marriages
than other students did. Therefore, gifted students
with low grades are an area of concern.
Students can demonstrate their giftedness
with behaviors not captured with test scores.
Educators often use rating scales, such as the
Gifted Rating Scales (GRS; Pfeiffer &
Jarosewich, 2007) and the Scales for Rating the
Behavior Characteristics of Superior Students
(SRBCSS; Renzulli et al., 2010) to identify
behaviors indicative of giftedness. Educators
should be concerned about students who demon-
strate the behaviors associated with giftedness on
these scales but who are not achieving.
Emerick’s (1988) last category is one that is
receiving considerable attention. Schools and
society do not afford students of poverty and
those from underrepresented groups the same
educational opportunities as their more afuent
and dominant culture peers. For example, the
percentage of students eligible for free and
reduced lunch in a school is negatively related to
the percentage of students identied as gifted
(National Center for Research on Gifted
Education, 2016). Failing to be identied or
attending a school without a gifted program lim-
its these students’ opportunity to achieve their
full potential. These involuntary underachievers
underachieve through no fault of their own. In
Germany, Endepohls-Ulpe and Ruf (2006) found
gifted underachievers, children with low achieve-
ment motivation, and gifted girls were at higher
risk to be overlooked as gifted. Therefore, they
were less likely to develop fully their talents…in
16 Understanding Underachievement
288
effect…possibly becoming involuntary under-
achievers. The denition of achievement in a par-
ticular subculture may differ from that of the
dominant culture. Additionally, researchers and
educators may need to adjust their views of both
giftedness and underachievement when attempt-
ing to both identify and address underachieve-
ment within a culturally diverse student
population.
Labeling someone as an underachiever is a
value judgement. Should we identify individuals
as underachieving because they choose not to
perform in areas that they do not value and that
are not of interest to them? It is unrealistic to
expect gifted students to achieve at the highest
level universally. Some gifted students do not put
forth effort in areas that do not interest or are not
important to them. However, they do excel in
other areas that they enjoy and value. “The gifted
students who should be of greatest concern to
educators and parents are those failing to achieve
in any productive area” (Siegle & McCoach,
2013, p.379).
Factors Associated
withUnderachievement
Gender
Gifted underachievers tend to be male. Over a
variety of studies across time, researchers iden-
tify underachieving gifted boys at two to three
times the rate of gifted girls (Gowan, 1955;
McCall, 1994; McCoach & Siegle, 2001;
Matthews & McBee, 2007; Peterson & Colangelo,
1996). Females have higher GPAs in school
(Duckworth & Seligman, 2005), enroll in college
at higher rates (Conger & Long, 2010), and have
higher graduation rates (Conger & Long, 2010).
However, the ratio of male to female under-
achievers may be exaggerated. Part of the imbal-
ance may be that underachieving gifted boys tend
to draw more attention to themselves by acting
out. Some have suggested that many gifted
underachieving females are possibly being over-
looked (Siegle & McCoach, 2013). Therefore,
educators and parents must be alert to possible
underachievement with females as well as males.
Peers
Ryan (2001) found that students select friends
who have similar levels of academic self-efcacy
and achievement. She also found “students’ peer
group context in the fall predicted changes in
their liking and enjoyment of school…and their
achievement over the school year” (p.1135). In
other words, students’ attitudes and achievement
become more like those of their friends.
Individuals’ behaviors are not only inuenced by
their acquaintances, but also by their acquain-
tances’ acquaintances (Fowler & Christakis,
2010). Berndt (1999) found that students seemed
to more closely resemble their friends at the end
of the school year than they did at the beginning
of the school year; students’ grades decreased
between fall and spring if their friends had lower
grades in the fall. Kindermann (1993) found that
even at the beginning of the year, fourth and fth
grade students tended to afliate with classmates
who shared similar motivation orientations, and
they reorganized their peer groups throughout the
year to preserve their motivational composition.
Being popular is an issue for many adoles-
cents. Rimm (2005) found that middle-school
students worried that appearing to work hard in
school would put them into an unpopular “nerd”
category. Several studies suggest peer groups sig-
nicantly inuence student achievement
(Heneld, Owens, & Moore III, 2008; Schultz,
2002). In fact, underachieving gifted adolescents
have reported the peer group inuence was the
number one obstacle to their achievement (Clasen
& Clasen, 1995).
Possible Causes
ofUnderachievement
The literature generally suggests a variety of pos-
sible causes of underachievement: an initiating
situation, excessive power, inconsistency and
opposition, inappropriate classroom environ-
ment, competition issues, perfectionism, and
value conicts. Events in students’ lives can alter
their achievement patterns. This might be a
change in the family structure, such as a new sib-
ling, parent divorce or marriage, or a move to a
D. Siegle
289
new school. Parents and educators who are aware
of these potential pitfalls can potentially prevent
or lessen their impact (Rimm, 1995).
Bestowing adult status on a child at too young
an age may contribute to the development of
underachievement (Fine & Pitts, 1980; Rimm &
Lowe, 1988). Young people who experience
excessive power at home can have difculty
adjusting to a school environment in which they
have limited choices.
Gifted students who receive conicting mes-
sages from parents, conicting messages from
parents and teachers, or conicting messages
from gifted specialists and classroom teachers
may justify reasons not to achieve. For example,
students may hear their parents discuss the par-
ents’ discontent over the way the school is
addressing the student’s gifted needs. A gifted
specialist may share with students his concern
about how their classroom teacher is not address-
ing their academic needs. Each of these scenarios
provides the child with ammunition that can be
used as an excuse for not producing his or her
best work.
Rimm and Lowe (1988) studied the family
environments of 22 underachieving gifted stu-
dents. In 95% of the families, one parent emerged
as the disciplinarian, while the other parent acted
as a protector. Often, opposition between parents
increased as the challenger became more authori-
tarian and the rescuer became increasingly pro-
tective. Mandel and Marcus (1995) describe the
“wheeler-dealer underachiever” who is impulsive
and demands immediate satisfaction and instant
gratication—traits that are not conducive to
reading a book or working on a project. These
students often have parents who strongly differ
on their views of their child’s behavior and what
do to about it. Parents of underachievers also tend
to be either overly lenient or overly strict
(Pendarvis, Howley, & Howley, 1990; Weiner,
1992), or may vacillate between lenient and
strict.
Classrooms do not always provide intellectu-
ally stimulating environments for gifted and tal-
ented students to thrive. Many gifted students
underachieve by default; they simple do not
receive the academic content or instruction
necessary to reach their potential. Regular class-
room time is often unproductive for gifted learn-
ers. Fredricks, Alfeld, and Eccles (2010) found
that regular classes, as compared to gifted educa-
tion and advanced classes, tend to undermine,
rather than support, a passion for learning. Many
gifted elementary school students already know
as much as half of the material to be covered in
their current grade prior to the start of the school
year (Reis etal., 1993). The majority of gifted
students spend 80% of their time in regular edu-
cation settings instead of in specialized programs
designed to meet their unique needs (Westberg,
Archambault Jr., Dobyns, & Salvin, 1993), yet
61% of classroom teachers have not received
training in meeting the needs of advanced stu-
dents (Robinson, Shore, & Enerson, 2007).
Matthews and McBee (2007) found that school-
year GPA, something that normally would be
indicative of underachievement, was not a sig-
nicant predictor of gifted students’ achievement
in a summer program designed to meet their
intellectual needs. The researchers concluded
that programs that successfully address the aca-
demic and social needs of gifted children can
reverse many underachievement behaviors.
Kanevsky and Keighley (2003) reported ve C’s
contributed to gifted students’ satisfaction with
their learning environment: control, choice, chal-
lenge, complexity, and caring. They sought con-
trol to give them choice over what and how they
learned. They sought intellectual stimulation
through content that was challenging and com-
plex. Finally, they sought a caring teacher who
was interested in them and their learning.
Students must learn to function within a com-
petitive society (Rimm, 2008b); at the same time,
overly competitive situations can also be detri-
mental. Gifted students who view giftedness as a
xed mindset may be particularly at risk in com-
petitive and academically challenging situations
(Dweck, 2000, p.23). Makel, Snyder, Chandler,
Malone, and Putallz (2015) found that many aca-
demically gifted adolescents view intelligence as
malleable (incremental view) and giftedness as
xed (entity view), while few viewed giftedness
as malleable and intelligence as xed. Gifted stu-
dents with a xed mindset may be reluctant to
16 Understanding Underachievement
290
risk their “giftedness,” something they see as set,
by performing poorly in competitive and chal-
lenging situations. For these students, not per-
forming is less risky than performing and failing.
For them, every difcult task is a test of their gift-
edness, and many become underachievers
because they are simply not willing to take that
risk. For some, this means not completing the
assignment. For others, it means procrastinating
and then hiding behind statements such as, “I
could have done better if I had more time.
Rosario, Schrimshaw, and Hunter (2009) found a
strong relationship between procrastination and
underachievement.
Because of their xed mindset, many gifted
students do not see their effort as playing a part in
their achievement. Siegle and Reis (1998)
reported that while the teachers’ ratings of mid-
dle school gifted students’ ability (r= .81) and
effort (r=.80) were similarly associated with the
quality of work these students produce, gifted
students’ ratings of themselves were not. Overall,
gifted students’ responses showed a stronger
relationship between their perceived ability and
the quality of work they reported they did
(r=.72) than between their percieved effort and
the quality of work they reported they did
(r = .34). The authors contemplated whether
these students believed their success was more
contingent on their natural ability than the effort
they put forth or whether they were simply report-
ing that they were not being challenged and
therefore did not need to work hard to produce
quality work. Neither of these proposed scenarios
is positive, and both could contribute to student
underachievement. Wu (2005) noted that Chinese
culture deemphasizes giftedness as an innate
ability and emphasizes the concept of talent per-
formance. In that culture, gifted children need to
take responsibility for developing their gifts.
Some research (Siegle, Rubenstein, Pollard, &
Romey, 2010) showed that rst semester achiev-
ing gifted college students can believe that ability
is important in doing well without developing a
xed entity view. The researchers noted that
“although some researchers have cautioned
against recognizing student ability at the peril of
diminishing the importance of effort, educators
and parents should not be fearful of discussing
the role ability plays in gifted students’ perfor-
mances, while also emphasizing the importance
of hard work and perseverance” (p.92). Perhaps
gifted achievers are able to appreciate the role
ability plays in high performance without being
paralyzed by it, while gifted underachievers view
ability as a possible limiting factor in their suc-
cess (Siegle & McCoach, 2013).
Perfectionism is an issue for many under-
achievers. One study found that gifted under-
achievers do not appear to suffer from many of
the maladaptive behaviors associated with per-
fectionism such as concern over mistakes; rather,
underachievers lack the high standards and orga-
nization associated with positive striving perfec-
tionists (Moeld, Peters, & Chakraborti-Ghosh,
2016). Although gifted students are no more
likely to suffer from perfectionism than other stu-
dents (Adelson & Wilson, 2009), when students’
self-worth is tied to their giftedness and high per-
formance, behaviors associated with perfection-
ism such as procrastination, fear of failure, and
dichotomous thinking may become issues that
lead to underachievement (Siegle, 2013).
Finally, value conicts between family, peers,
and the school environment can limit student
achievement. As stated earlier, negative peer atti-
tudes often relate to underachievement (Clasen &
Clasen, 1995; Weiner, 1992). The reverse can
also be true. Positive attitudes about achievement
and the future are essential for doing well in
school. Mindnich (2007) found Latino students’
background characteristics, including gender,
generational status, and maternal education level,
did not contribute to differences in Latino student
achievement, while aspirations for future educa-
tional attainment signicantly contributed to
achievement. The value peers and family place
on education plays a role in students’
achievement.
Theoretical Models andPossible
Solutions
Programs to reverse underachievement generally
fall into two categories, counseling and instruc-
tional interventions, and often involve a combi-
nation of both. Therefore, counselors and
D. Siegle
291
psychologists are in unique positions to help
reverse underachievement by working with par-
ents, teachers, and mentors to build underachiev-
ers’ self-efcacy, teach resilience, help students
balance achievement and social needs, help stu-
dents to develop their strengths and accept weak-
nesses, and assist students to set realistic goals
for success (Rimm, 2008b).
Fong, Snyder, Barr, and Patall (2014) exam-
ined the effectiveness of interventions to reverse
underachievement. Their meta-analysis of 53
research studies suggested that interventions
moderately improved achievement and psycho-
logical function. Interventions were most effec-
tive in elementary and middle school settings.
The most successful interventions for improving
achievement focused on instilling a value for
learning.
Rimm’s Trifocal Model
Rimm’s (2008a, b) Trifocal Model has been suc-
cessful in about 80% of the cases in which it has
been used. The name springs from its three- way
emphasis on school, home, and student. The
model is based on the premise that underachieve-
ment is learned, and therefore it can be unlearned.
The model contains six steps. The rst step of
the model is conducting a comprehensive assess-
ment of the student to document what the student
is actually capable of achieving, to provide infor-
mation about the student’s learning styles,
strengths, and weaknesses, and to determine
what behaviors may be contributing to the under-
achievement. The second step is communicating
to parents and teachers information from the
assessment so that they are aware of the students’
strengths and weaknesses and what factors may
be reinforcing the underachievement.
The third step is changing the expectations of
those involved in the situation. This includes
helping the student recognize that he or she has
the ability to be successful, helping parents set
reasonable expectations at home, and helping
teachers set realistic learning goals for the stu-
dent and understand the student is capable of
high achievement.
The fourth step is identifying achieving role
models with whom the student can identify.
Rimm emphasized “All other treatments for
underachievement dim in importance compared
with strong identication with an achieving
model” (Rimm, Siegle, & Davis, 2018,
pp.255–256).
Students with a long pattern of underachieve-
ment will have skill deciencies that need to be
addressed, which involves the fth step in
Rimm’s model. Fortunately, because they are
gifted, gifted students can often quickly over-
come these decits with tutoring. The nal step is
making changes that support student achieve-
ment and discourage behaviors that feed under-
achievement. These may include adjusting to a
more appropriate curriculum and learning envi-
ronment, as well as addressing parent and teacher
behaviors that may be reinforcing the student’s
nonproductive habits.
Snyder andLinnenbrink-Garcia’s
Maladaptive Competence Beliefs
andDeclining Value Beliefs Pathways
Snyder and Linnenbrink-Garcia (2013) proposed
a developmental, person-centered theoretical
approach to understanding underachievement. In
their model, underachievement follows two path-
ways: the Maladaptive Competence Beliefs
Pathway and the Declining Value Beliefs
Pathway. In this model, students’ early reactions
to being identied as gifted and the challenge, or
the lack of challenge, they encounter early in
their school career can set them on one of the two
pathways that ultimately become problematic as
academic challenge increases. Some students’
sense of identity becomes maladaptively tied to
both their gifted label and their easily attained
early achievement. When the curriculum becomes
more difcult, these students may self-handicap
and disengage to protect their gifted identity.
Alternatively, some students are not maladaptive
to their gifted label; however, due to insufcient
challenge in school work, they fail to see value in
academic work. By failing to develop a connec-
tion between effort and positive outcomes, they
16 Understanding Underachievement
292
set themselves up for disengagement and under-
achievement as academic content becomes more
challenging. Implications from this model sug-
gest that parents and teachers should carefully
consider how they discuss the gifted label, and
educators should ensure gifted students encoun-
ter appropriately challenging curriculum early.
Renzulli andReis’s Schoolwide
Enrichment Model
In a study of university freshman honors stu-
dents, Siegle etal. (2010) found that in 15 differ-
ent talent areas (from leadership and music to
mathematics and writing) there was always a sig-
nicant, positive relationship between students’
interest in a talent area and their assessment of
their skill in that area. Students who reported
being interested in an area tended to do well;
those with lower interest also had lower self-
reported achievement. Playing off students’
interests is a key to increasing passion for learn-
ing in schools. Fredricks etal. (2010) suggested
that an intellectually stimulating and challenging
environment can be created by the following:
Cognitively complex tasks that are both meaning-
ful and challenging and allow youth to pose and
solve real-world problems can help accomplish
this goal. Providing opportunities for students to
incorporate their outside interests and future plans
in their schoolwork is also likely to be benecial.
Finally, teachers should give youth some choice
over the types of activities they work on and some
control over how they complete these activities.
(p.27)
Fredricks etal.’s suggestion mirrors the Type
III activities found in the Schoolwide Enrichment
Model (Reis & Renzulli, 2009). Baum, Renzulli,
and Hébert (1995) used Type III activities with
17 gifted underachievers ages 8–13. Eighty-two
percent of them made positive gains during the
course of the school year and in the following
year. Hébert and Olenchak (2000) also found a
plan of strength and interest-based strategies
reversed the underachievement.
Type III Enrichment activities are academic
investigations that focus on (a) personalization of
interest, (b) the use of authentic investigative and
creative methodology, (c) problems without pre-
determined correct answers, and (d) development
of a product with impact on one or more intended
audiences (Reis & Renzulli, 2009).
Type III investigations are a component of the
Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM; Renzulli
& Reis, 2014) and the Enrichment Triad Model
(Renzulli, 1977) and are often the result of an
interest sparked through the student’s participa-
tion in a general exploratory activity (Type I
Enrichment) and involve training in cognitive
and affective skills (Type II Enrichment).
Research on students who engaged in Type III
Enrichment suggests a relationship between stu-
dents’ early and subsequent interests (Westberg,
2010), postsecondary school plans (Hébert,
1993), career choices (Delcourt, 1994; Starko,
1988), goal valuation (Brigandi, Siegle, Weiner,
Gubbins, & Little, 2016), levels of self-efcacy
(Schack, Starko, & Burns, 1991; Starko, 1988),
and ability to self-regulate (Hébert, 1993).
Siegle andMcCoach’s Achievement
Orientation Model
The Achievement Orientation Model (see
Fig.16.1; Siegle & McCoach, 2005b) posits that
beliefs and values students hold toward them-
selves, given tasks, and achievement itself inu-
ences what tasks students seek, and whether they
are able to obtain them. In the model, students’
self-perceptions in three areas (self-efcacy, goal
valuation, and environmental perceptions) inter-
act to motivate them to self-regulate their behav-
iors and subsequently engage and achieve.
The model is based on motivation principles
and has been used to reverse underachievement
(Rubenstein, Siegle, Reis, McCoach, & Burton,
2012). Self-efcacy beliefs answer the question,
Am I smart enough?” Students must believe
they have the skills to perform a task before they
will attempt it. For example, students must
believe they are capable in mathematics before
they will attempt a difcult math problem. If they
believe that mathematics is too difcult, they are
unlikely to put forth appropriate effort. Therefore
they must believe they can learn the material if
D. Siegle
293
they try. Goal valuation beliefs answer the ques-
tion, “Why try?” There are two basic reasons that
students engage in a task; either they enjoy the
activity or they value the outcome or byproduct
of the activity. Many students are not motivated
to achieve in school because they do not value the
outcomes of school, nor do they enjoy complet-
ing schoolwork; therefore, they see little value.
To reverse underachievement that stems from not
seeing purpose in the work, educators must build
into students’ school experiences activities and
content that students value. Environmental per-
ception beliefs address the question, “Can I be
successful here?” Students must view their envi-
ronment as friendly and likely to provide positive
outcomes for them. Students who possess posi-
tive environmental perceptions believe their
home and school environments support their
efforts. Their perception of the friendliness of
their surroundings has an impact on their aca-
demic attitude and behavior (Siegle & McCoach,
2005a).
Students must possess positive affect in the
areas of self-efcacy, goal valuation, and envi-
ronmental perceptions. The intensity of their pos-
itivity in the three areas need not be equally
strong, but it must be positive. If any of the three
do not meet a “threshold” value, students may fail
to be motivated and subsequently underachieve.
Intense positivity in one of the three areas does
not compensate for negativity in one of the other
areas (Siegle, McCoach, & Roberts, 2017).
However, beliefs and values are not sufcient. It
is the addition of the self-regulation metacogni-
tive process that ultimately results in achievement
(Brigandi, 2015).
Although there is no silver bullet to address
underachievement, educators who implemented
combinations of the following strategies have
successfully addressed underachievement for
many students:
Explain the purpose for lessons and
assignments.
Help students set short and long-term aca-
demic goals.
Help students see beyond the present activity
to the long-term benets it produces.
Tie assignments to “real-world” situations.
Learn about student interests, and integrate
these interests into schoolwork.
Offer students authentic choices about the
ways in which they learn and show mastery of
the material.
Offer instruction at levels that are optimally
challenging.
Build opportunities for immediate feedback
into classroom activities.
16 Understanding Underachievement
294
Work with students to help them articulate
their reasons for choosing or failing to put
forth effort in a class.
Develop portfolios of student work and peri-
odically share it with students to help them
recognize their growth.
Encourage students to compete with them-
selves by charting their own progress.
Recognize student growth by complimenting
specic skills and drawing attention to the stu-
dent’s role in developing the skills.
Discuss with students the obstacles they
believe are keeping them from doing well and
what options exist for them.
Listen actively to resolve students’ concerns.
Provide opportunities for students to interact
with more challenging and interesting
material.
Evaluate what study skills are needed to be
successful.
Help students organize their work and study
time.
Encourage self-monitoring skills that review
distractibility, delayed gratication, and
awareness of performance avoidance.
Help students plan school work tasks.
Stay positive and do not give up, all of us are
works in progress.
Conclusions
Some students naturally reverse their underachieve-
ment during later high school years; others do not.
Others reverse their underachievement when they
encounter a caring teacher or mentor. Still others
reverse their achievement when they encounter a
more healthy environment (Peterson, 2001). Just as
gifted underachievers differ in their reasons for
underachieving, so do strategies for helping them
achieve differ from one student to another. Research
on achieving students suggests that successful stu-
dents believe that they have the skills to be success-
ful, see purpose in what they are doing, and trust
those around them who support their efforts. They
also set realistic expectations and self-regulate
(McCoach & Siegle, 2003a, b).
Schultz (2002) noted that gifted students are
often seen as defective merchandise in need of
repair” (p. 204). He suggested that educators
move away from this perspective of working on
students and move to a perspective based on
working with students. Working together, parents
and educators can help students build an
achievement- oriented attitude. However, as
Whitmore (1986) noted over a quarter a century
ago, “The nal choice, obviously, is the child’s;
he or she must want to change and believe effort
will be rewarded by sufcient success and per-
sonal satisfaction” (p.69).
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16 Understanding Underachievement
... Due to the lack of consensus in the field regarding a common definition for giftedness coupled with the varying definitions put forth for underachievement, it is difficult to decide on a common definition of underachievement for gifted children (Siegle, 2018). In other words, the lack of consensus on the precise operation of underachievement makes it impossible to have a standard diagnostic procedure (Stoeger, Ziegler, & Martzog, 2008). ...
... However, sometimes test scores and academic achievement (the measurement based on IQ) do not accurately reflect students' actual abilities. For example, for twice-exceptional students with learning disabilities, assessments of their academic performance can prevent them from showing their potential or abilities (Siegle, 2018). ...
... Even so, intelligence tests are generally considered to add a certain degree of objective support to the identification process when making placement decisions for gifted children and students with learning disabilities (Francis, Hawes, & Abbott, 2016). It is also the case that gifted students may not want to invest in areas that are not personally interesting or important, whereby leading to poor performance in areas that were undervalued or uninteresting, and high performance in areas that were valued and were interesting (Siegle, 2018). ...
Thesis
In China, a country with a special socio-cultural background, how is the achievement and underachievement of Chinese students assessed? Research often stresses that the learning environment has an important effect on talent development. Indeed, given its 5,000 years of traditional history and culture, it is promising to explore how learning resources affect achievement across genders in China. In this study, we use three applied topics to evaluate the current state of gifted education in China and to inform best practices that support Chinese gifted students. Through a systemic perspective combined with a resource-orientation approach, this study analyzes: high-performing Chinese PISA students, underachieving gifted Chinese students, and the gender gap in STEM. The findings of this study are as follows: First, learning resources are crucial to talent development. Chinese high-performance in PISA can be mainly attributed to the sample sites from which talent is drawn in China as those sites tend to be developed cities where students have easier access to the appropriate learning resources for their learning needs. Second, when compared to their high-performing counterparts, underachieving gifted students in China seek out different learning resources. It can be argued that the resources available to and sought out by high performers versus underachievers has an impact on whether a student’s potential is fully realized. Third, an analysis of the gender gap in STEM underscores that Chinese women are better able to achieve success when there is an earnest effort to understand feminine and masculine attributes that suit the person in the process of realizing their potential.
... Generalmente, suele utilizarse la media de las calificaciones para medir el RA general de un alumno (e.g., Gilar-Corbí, 2019a;2019b;Veas et al., 2016;Veas et al., 2018). De acuerdo con Emerick (1988; en Siegle, 2018), aunque las calificaciones escolares son menos fiables que las pruebas estandarizadas porque podrían estar sujetas a sesgos por parte del profesorado (Veas et al., 2018), son un buen indicativo del nivel de RA de un alumno en un ambiente de clase, e incluyen un componente actitudinal (Veas et al., 2016), por lo que también reflejan en parte la motivación de dicho estudiante (Siegle, 2018). ...
... Esto es importante para el caso del alumnado con AACC ya que, aunque podrían estar alcanzando dicho RA mínimo, su desempeño podría seguir estando por debajo de su potencial (Landis y Reschly, 2013). Por su parte, el RA esperado o potencial suele medirse con tests de cociente intelectual o pruebas estandarizadas de RA (Siegle, 2018). ...
... De forma paralela, Siegle y McCoach (2005;en Siegle, 2018) formulan su Modelo de orientación al logro (Achievement Orientation Model). Según esta concepción, las creencias y valores que los estudiantes poseen sobre sí mismos, sobre el logro y sobre la propia tarea tendrán un efecto en lo que el estudiante será capaz de extraer de la tarea y lo que éste busca en ella (Siegle, 2018). Para estos autores, las interrelaciones entre los sentimientos de autoeficacia ante una tarea, el valor intrínseco que la meta tenga para el estudiante y sus percepciones del ambiente en cuanto al apoyo recibido del mismo, son clave para desarrollar capacidades de autorregulación que le permitan rendir adecuadamente. ...
... In this regard, gifted students cannot be overlooked (Herranz and Sánchez, 2019). Our laws on education conform to the necessity of adequately addressing pupils' specific characteristics, but in practice, they are not often receiving what they truly need (Ersoy and Uysal, 2018;Parr and Stevens, 2019;Rodríguez-Naveiras et al., 2019), leading to underachievement (Siegle, 2018;Lamanna et al., 2019) and even school failure and early school withdrawal (Blaas, 2014). ...
... As achievement depends on abilities being nurtured, activities to develop giftedness should be offered to all children as early as possible, particularly those who demonstrate interest and effort (Renzulli, 2008), primarily in the form of enrichment, both in and out of school (Subotnik et al., 2011). Underachievement is a serious problem that can frequently occur among this group (Colangelo, 2002); up to 50% will exhibit it at some point in their lives (Siegle, 2018). Underachievement is defined as the discrepancy between academic ability and outcomes (Rimm, 1997). ...
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The educational inclusion of gifted students requires not only equity but also emotional accessibility and social participation. However, different studies indicate that gifted students constitute a vulnerable group (for example, the incidence of bullying is higher). Psychosocial variables are determinants for the development and expression of giftedness, particularly during adolescence. This study analyzes the impact of an inclusive extracurricular enrichment program for gifted secondary school students on the well-being of adolescents. The program was based on the enrichment model of Renzulli and Reis (2016). The objective was to develop a cluster to facilitate high-achieving learning in collaboration with teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors from their schools as well as university professors and students that would address their emotions and socialization across the board and benefit or involve their peers in their regular classrooms. The intervention took place over two years: eight sessions, one afternoon per week, for five months during each school year. The sample consisted of 47 students from the first and second years of compulsory secondary education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria - ESO) (age, mean (M) = 12.57, standard deviation (SD) = 0.82) during the first year and 27 students from the first, second, and third years of ESO (age, M = 13.48, SD = 0.94) during the second year; 61.4% were girls. Participants completed a questionnaire before (T1) and (T3) and after (T2) and (T4) each intervention. The results show better outcomes for psychological and subjective well-being, more positive moods, and a significant reduction in school fears. The results from this study indicate the importance of educational screening and support for gifted students to promote their well-being through collaborative enrichment activities.
... It is often stressed that underachievers are a very heterogenous group (Siegle, 2018). This might be one explanation for the diversity of findings on the topic, but it might also partly be due to the different empirical approaches. ...
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Previous studies have associated several variables concerning motivation and other domains with underachievement, i. e. a student's academic achievement falling short of what their cognitive abilities, as the best predictor of academic performance, would indicate. The present study extends these findings using a more rigorous approach in defining underachievers and suitable control groups. Using discriminant analysis, underachievers identified in a German twin family study were compared not only to achievers with comparable IQ scores, but also with students of lower aptitude, but comparably low grades, as well as overachieving students. Results confirm previous findings that compared to successful students, underachievers report lower levels of motivation and parental support; beyond this comparison, underachievers also differed from other low achievers, mostly in terms of their personality. In total, 40% of the variance between the groups were explained. Additionally, the data shed doubt on the common assumption that underachievers are an unusually heterogenous group of students.
Article
Τα χαρισματικά παιδιά αποτελούν έναν σχετικά παραμελημένο μαθητικό πληθυσμό, με περιορισμένη πρόσβαση σε εξειδικευμένες εκπαιδευτικές παρεμβάσεις για την καλλιέργεια και την ανάδειξη των ιδιαίτερων ταλέντων τους. Η επικράτηση μιας σειράς παρανοήσεων γύρω από τη χαρισματικότητα, τις ανάγκες και τα χαρακτηριστικά των χαρισματικών μαθητών τείνει να δυσχεραίνει περαιτέρω την προσπάθεια για την αποτελεσματική εκπαιδευτική και ψυχοπαιδαγωγική τους προσέγγιση. Υπό αυτό το πρίσμα, η παρούσα εργασία αποβλέπει στην αποδόμηση πέντε ιδιαίτερα διαδεδομένων μύθων γύρω από τη χαρισματικότητα και τους χαρισματικούς μαθητές, όπως αυτοί εντοπίστηκαν μέσω απλής ανασκόπησης στη διεθνή και την ελληνική βιβλιογραφία και εκκινώντας από σχετικό αφιερωματικό τεύχος του περιοδικού Gifted Childhood Quarterly. Από την ανασκόπηση διαπιστώθηκαν και αναδεικνύονται πέντε συχνές παρανοήσεις και στερεότυπα σχετικά με τον ορισμό, τις εκδηλώσεις της χαρισματικότητας, καθώς και με τις ανάγκες και τις δυνατότητες των χαρισματικών μαθητών. Η αποδόμησή τους γίνεται μέσα από την αντιπαραβολή ερευνητικών ευρημάτων και σύγχρονων επιστημονικών θεωριών που ενισχύουν τη γνώση για την εκπαίδευση των χαρισματικών παιδιών και προωθούν τεκμηριωμένες πρακτικές για τη συμπερίληψη των μαθητών αυτών.
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Though several studies have been undertaken to explore the correlates of academic achievement, there is a dearth of studies relating to the cognitive profiles of children who show marked discrepancies between their cognitive potential and actual academic achievement. The present study was undertaken in this context. The study was conducted on a sample of 308 students in the age range of 12–16 years, drawn from different schools in Kerala, India. The participants belonged to four groups, that is, Underachievers, Normal achievers, Overachievers, and those with Specific Learning Disorders (SLD). WISC-IV India and Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT) were used for assessing cognitive functions. Results indicated that the SLD group could be discriminated from the other three groups in terms of Digit span, Letter-Number sequencing, Working Memory Index, and Processing Speed Index. Further, a retention score obtained from RAVLT could discriminate between the SLD and UA groups. Discriminant analysis of the variables resulted in the extraction of two significant functions composed of three variables of WISC and two variables of RAVLT. The results indicated that the different groups of scholastically backward children, though similar in their overall IQ, had distinct and characteristic cognitive profiles.
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The article analyzes the foreign publications for the last five years on the research of anxiety, its different types and their relationship with cognitive abilities, academic achievements, emotional and social development of schoolchildren. The main attention is paid to studies of the anxiety in intellectually gifted children as well as the contradictions in ideas about giftedness as a special vulnerability to problems or as a resource for their successful overcoming. These contradictions emerge mainly due to differences in the definitions of giftedness and gifted children. It is shown that intellectually gifted children face the same age-related development problems as their peers, and cope with these problems no less, and sometimes even more successfully. At the same time, the recognition of unique problems for intellectually gifted children that are associated with increased anxiety and other emotional disorders, as well as the need for psychological support, is emphasized.
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Despite decades of research on interventions for academically underachieving students, no clear answers have emerged. Synthesizing across existing intervention efforts can help in understanding not only the overall effectiveness for these interventions, but also the factors that may moderate such effectiveness. In the current study, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the effectiveness of interventions for academically underachieving students, exploring effects on achievement and psychosocial outcomes. Overall, findings from 53 studies revealed that interventions are moderately effective in improving achievement and psychosocial outcomes. Moderator analyses revealed that intervention effectiveness varied by grade level. Implications for research and practice are discussed, particularly the need for rigorous evaluations of well-designed interventions that consider the fit between students’ unique reasons for underachievement and the makeup of the intervention.
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Perfectionism can influence how one approaches challenges and deals with setbacks, and, consequently, can inhibit or facilitate achievement. The present study (1) explored the relationship between Frost’s six dimensions of perfectionism and five types of coping strategies; (2) examined how dimensions of perfectionism predict coping in response to academic stress; and (3) investigated differences between gifted underachievers and other gifted students on perfectionism and coping among 130 American gifted students in grades 6–8. Results of stepwise regression models revealed approach coping was predicted by adaptive perfectionism (Positive Strivings-notably Organization), whereas avoidance coping (Internalizing, Externalizing, and Distancing) was predicted by various combined models. Gifted underachievers displayed lower Positive Strivings perfectionism scores and lower positive coping when compared to achievers. This information is helpful when considering ways to guide gifted students to high levels of academic achievement while utilizing adaptive approaches.
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Too often, African American elementary school students, including the gifted, disengage academically and underachieve in public schools. Increased research on the underachievement and low achievement of African American students in gifted education programs has suggested that an array of educational, personal/social, and familial factors (e. g., low funding, racial identity development, and child-rearing practices) contribute to negative school outcomes. In this article we explain how these factors influence these students' academic performance. We also offer practical strategies elementary school counselors can use to counter these negative educational outcomes and assist gifted African American students in elementary school in developing the identity of a scholar.
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Grounded in the Enrichment Triad and Achievement Orientation Models, this qualitative case study builds understanding of the relationship between participation in Type III Enrichment and the achievement orientation attitude of goal valuation in gifted secondary school students. Participants included 10 gifted secondary school students, their parents, and their classroom teacher. Data included student, parent, and teacher responses in semistructured interviews, short-answer surveys, and student work. Findings indicate a relationship between participation in enrichment and goal valuation. Students engaged in Type III Enrichment perceived their projects as interesting, beneficial, and/or as related to perceptions of identity. In addition, factors of goal valuation were related to students’ continued interest and perceptions of enjoyment after completion of the enrichment projects. These findings have implications for structuring gifted education programs that meet the special needs of gifted secondary school learners.
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Related research is summarized particularly as regards its implications for guidance programs for the gifted. Suggestions for counselors are given. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)