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Gifted Underachievers


The most common characteristics and patterns of underachievement include:

  • a very high IQ
  • poor work habits
  • a seeming inability to concentrate
  • lack of effort in tasks
  • an intense interest in one particular area
  • frequently unfinished work
  • a low self esteem
  • demonstrations of emotional frustration
  • negative attitudes towards self and peers
  • a skill deficit in at least one subject area
  • inattentiveness to task at hand
  • failure to respond to motivation by usual teacher techniques

Because of continual failures in some areas, underachieving gifted students tend to exhibit either of two basic behaviour patterns: aggressive or withdrawn.

The features of the aggressive behaviour pattern are:

  • Stubborn refusal to comply with requests
  • attention seeking
  • disruption of others
  • continual rejection of set work
  • absence of self-direction in decision making
  • continual alienation of peers

The features of withdrawal behaviour pattern are:

  • lack of communication
  • fantasy world
  • working alone
  • little in-class work undertaken
  • little attempt made to justify behaviour

Factors Influencing Underachievement

It is important to determine the causes of underachievement in order to alleviate the problem. Some are listed here:

  • medical
  • physical
  • perfectionism
  • a desire to fit in
  • emotional status (grief, separation)
  • low self esteem
  • pressure to conform
  • perceptions of peers towards the individual
  • expectations (of self and others)
  • a feeling of powerlessness
  • lack of autonomy

Some Useful Strategies

Develop control of learning

  • realistic goal setting
  • appropriate classroom environments

Provide an opportunity to perform

  • by increased stimulation and complexity
  • by meta-cognitive training

Encouraging positive relationships

  • faster risk taking
  • co-operation and collaboration is encouraged