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Underachieving Gifted Students


Updated October 08, 2006

Strategies To Reverse Patterns of Underachievement

Luckily, it is easier to reverse patterns of underachieving behavior than it is to define the term underachievement.

Whitmore (1980) describes three types of strategies that she found effective in working with underachieving behaviors in students:
  • Supportive Strategies. Classroom techniques and de- signs that allow students to feel they are part of a "family," versus a "factory," include methods such as holding class meetings to discuss student concerns; designing curriculum activities based on the needs and interests of the children; and allowing students to bypass assignments on subjects in which they have previously shown competency.

  • Intrinsic Strategies. These strategies incorporate the idea that students' self-concepts as learners are tied closely to their desire to achieve academically (Purkey and Novak, 1984). Thus, a classroom that invites positive attitudes is likely to encourage achievement. In classrooms of this type, teachers encourage attempts, not just successes; they value student input in creating classroom rules and responsibilities; and they allow students to evaluate their own work before receiving a grade from the teacher.

  • Remedial Strategies. Teachers who are effective in reversing underachieving behaviors recognize that students are not perfect - that each child has specific strengths and weaknesses as well as social, emotional and intellectual needs. With remedial strategies, students are given chances to excel in their areas of strength and interest while opportunities are provided in specific areas of learning deficiencies. This remediation is done in a "safe environment in which mistakes are considered a part of learning for everyone, including the teacher.

The key to eventual success lies in the willingness of parents and teachers to encourage students whenever their performance or attitude shifts (even slightly) in a positive direction.

Participation in Gifted Programs

Students who underachieve in some aspect of school per- formance, but whose talents exceed the bounds of what is generally covered in the standard curriculum, have a right to an education that matches their potential. To be sure, a program for gifted students may need to alter its structure or content to meet these students' specific learning needs, but this is preferable to denying gifted children access to educational services that are the most accommodating to their abilities.

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