3 Learns with satisfaction and joy (student is on the way to becoming a lifelong learner) 2 Earns high grades on assignments that challenge (completes assignments that require effort) 1 Gets good grades with ease (completes assignments with little effort)
Discrepancy between potential (ability) and performance (achievement) A regression involving potential and performance Failure to develop potential or latent ability Three General Themes
Requires defining ability. Requires defining achievement. 1. Discrepancy between ability and achievement
If a student performs more poorly on measures of achievement than one would expect based on measures of ability, then he or she is underachieving. 2. Discrepancy between predicted achievement and actual achievement
No attempt to define or measure potential. Underachievers viewed as individuals who fail to self-actualize 3. Failure to develop or utilize latent potential without reference to other external criteria.
Ability: IQ test: WISC-IV or Stanford-Binet IV. Criteria for giftedness? Achievement: Standardized Tests - 1 year below grade level? Should gifted students be above grade level? Classroom grades – failing grades? Time Period: Any drop over a short time period? Achievement that has declined 3 years in a row? Discrepancy definition requires defining ability and achievement
o Chronic? o Episodic - temporary, situational? o Mild? o Moderate? o Severe? o In all areas? o In only some areas? o Coincidental with increased homework? Type and Severity
Working definition: Underachievers are students who exhibit an observable discrepancy between expected achievement (as measured by a comprehensive test of cognitive or intellectual ability and actual achievement (as measured by class grades, teacher evaluations or standardized achievement tests). Must NOT be the result of a diagnosed learning disability and must persist over a one year period.
Distinguish between a chronic underachiever and a gifted student who has processing deficits, learning disabilities or attention deficits. Interventions that are appropriate for these subgroups are radically different. Special Populations
The non-compliant The working-hard-at-being-different The challenging-authority The angry/discouraged/frustrated The social/nonsocial The divergent outside of the box thinker The complex
Social Factors Culturally Diverse Family Dynamics Instructional/School Factors
o Peer influences? o Socio-economic factors? (Not an achievement environment) o Gender? o The only thing a child can control? Social Factors
Problems with competition? Passive resistance? Hypersensitivity/intensity? Low cause/effect ability? Inability to delay gratification? Low self-esteem? Dominant or dependent personality? Developmental arrest? (leading to internal conflict) Early power and attention (the only thing he/she can control?) Perfectionism? (Yes, perfectionism) Individual Factors
o Lack of home enrichment o No educational values o Anti-school attitude Family Factors
Economic pressure Parental depression Parenting behavior Disruptive events Parental attitudes toward work, school (models) Trust issues Family Factors Negative messages Family Tension Upset hierarchy Substance abuse Indifference Health Issues Conflict
Helps a peripheral parent to be involved Represents loyalty to someone Distracts parents fighting w/each other or contributes to the fighting Can help to unify parents to work with each other Can communicate distress about a transition or event or circumstance Can help to involve outside help/open up a closed family by engaging others The Function for the Child
o The "peripheral parent"-allies with child o Parent(s) live(s) through the child o Parent hostile to the child who "mirrors" them o Parent protects child against "ogre" o Parent threatened by "achievement" o Parents model anti-school attitudes o "Achievement" theme dominates family o Parents' success "paralyzes" child o High expectations generate rebellion Family Factors: The Family Dance
Achievement defined differently Attitude-achievement paradox Minority language background Different value systems Low expectations Inequity in educational opportunities Intimidated by majority culture Culturally Diverse
o If no "environment for learning o If low expectations o If no differentiation (interests/abilities) o If no support for special needs of child o If no support for teacher o If teacher hostile or indifferent o If focus is on weaknesses o If curriculum inappropriate o If experiences negative o If inflexible methods o If poor rapport with parent(s) School Factors
Two categories: 1. Counseling 2. Instructional
Counseling Goal is to help the student decide whether achievement is a desirable goal. If so, then help reverse counterproductive habits and cognitions.
o " Fixing" them o Giving advice o "That's nothing to be upset about." o "You have no reason to feel that." o "Don't you think it would be better if..." o "When I was your age..." o "Rescuing" them o Ignoring them o Being angry at their underachievement o Being overly invested in their achievement o Being so invested in them emotionally that the ability to help, affirm them is lost
o Helping them become "unstuck" o Not judging, criticizing o Focusing on strengths, reframing o Helping them "make sense" of themselves, their situation o Helping them "live more effectively" o Working on empowerment o Helping them "be selfish" in the system o Standing beside them
o Change family communication o Alter family roles o Help parents understand self, child o Create an appropriate hierarchy o Clarify personal boundaries o Help strengthen family leadership o "Be selfish-get what you need from the system."
o Help family adjust to change o Help all members feel heard, affirmed o Help all members affirm strengths o Raise awareness of parental messages o Help parents "give permission" to achieve o Identify parent vs. child needs o Raise awareness of developmental issues o Normalize family transitions o Empower the underachiever-in new ways
Parent and teachers together can adjust home and school environments to compensate for social impacts and can thus foster achievement within their children. Sylvia B. Rimm, Ph.D. Underachievement Syndrome Causes and Cures (1995) Why Gifted Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It (2008) Great Potential Press
What can parents and educators do? Dont rescue the child from a challenge. Instead support him/her. Help find and support interests outside of school as well as in school that motivate and develop a work ethic. Advocate for continuous progress and excellence at various levels of decision–making.
Jean Sunde Peterson, Ph.D. Purdue University
* Depression * Suicidal ideation ("Should I worry about you--that you'll hurt yourself?") * Thoughts of violence * Our own feelings about achievement * Responding only with a punitive approach * Having only a simplistic view of a very complex, idiosyncratic phenomenon * Questioning whether they are "gifted" (teacher, child, counselor, parent) WHAT TO BE ALERT TO
*Alert to, but not preoccupied with, pathology *Active listening, reflecting; credible feedback *Collaborative--client active *Alert to themes, patterns, strengths, personal resources *"Make sense" of emotions *Here-and-now focus INITIALLY…
o As a child, adolescent o As a complex individual o As more than "achiever," "underachiever" o As a son, daughter o As worth the attention o As having intelligence THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING KNOWN and APPRECIATED
"It took hard work to get our (or someone else's) attention." "You're a survivor." "You were smart enough to talk to someone." "You had the courage not to achieve." "Underneath you were very concerned about your parents." "It makes sense that you learned to manipulate people." REFRAMING PROBLEMS
* Specific problem to be solved? (Brief, solution-focused approach) *Multi-modal? (longer involvement) *Goal: More effective living FORMULATING AN APPROACH
If brief, solution-focused: relationship is important. Ask "Miracle-question" early. What would your life look like…? Explore how client could make problem bigger/smaller; ask who will notice change. Invite client to determine one small, concrete, feasible step toward more effective living (i.e., lessening the problem) and a definite time to make the step. FORMULATING A TREATMENT PLAN
* If systems approach: determine whether individual only or individual and family determine whether brief, solution-focused *If long term: collaboratively prioritize presenting issues, probably first working with the one with the best prospects of change or the one most critical to well-being FORMULATING A TREATMENT PLAN
* Self-reflecting re: biases, attitudes, & stereotypes related to giftedness *Being able to be poised, comfortable, and secure when working with gifted persons *Being able to refrain from "putting them in their place" or one-upping them with humor or expertise *Recognizing that gifted individuals may feel inept, inferior, uncomfortable--as well as guilty about gifts, power, attention. COUNSELOR ATTITUDES/BIASES
Recognize/Affirm Resilience to Foster Hope o Good problem-solving skills o An ability to gain attention from others o An optimistic view of their experiences o A positive vision of a meaningful life o A proactive perspective o Role models outside of the home--"buffers" o Positive self-concept o Don't blame self for family problems o Don't feel responsibility for fixing family o Social support o Intelligence
Instructional Part-time or full-time special classrooms for gifted Smaller student/teacher ratios Less conventional teaching strategies/ learning activities Affective education
Linda Silverman, Do Gifted Students Have Special Needs?
Instructional More parental involvement Specific teacher Curriculum changes Opportunities to pursue of topics of interest Involvement in extracurricular activities
Renzullis Enrichment Projects 5 Features : Relationship with the teacher Use of self-regulation strategies Opportunity to investigate topics related to underachievement Opportunity to work on an area of interest in a preferred learning style Time to interact with an appropriate peer group Curriculum Compacting
*Discussion Group for inclusion, support, comfort in school * Sending messages of strength: "You'll do what you need to when you're ready" (i.e., development!) "You'll figure out how to get what you need." "You have courage." "You are a sensitive person." " You're working at figuring out who you are---early!" *Avoiding messages re:"defective" *Resisting the urge to "fix" them *Affirming them as they are *Achievement not the most outstanding aspect *Nonjudgmental
Extrinsic - Values the reward or outcome; not the activity itself. Intrinsic – Enjoys the activity itself. Neither too easy nor too difficult. (Computer games) Self-confidence – Believes that he/she has the skills to be successful. Safety – Trusts the environment. Expects to be able to achieve in it. MOTIVATION
Motivation Tips Compliment the skill Compliment specifics Be genuine in compliments
Environment Performance orientation – innate abilities Mastery orientation - acquired abilities Balance between acknowledging ability while recognizing that effort went into its development.
Environment Friendly intellectual environment Engaging instruction Fair system
* Is academic achievement the most important thing? * What do we tell parents, teachers, and coaches who are wringing their hands over an underachiever? * How can we explain that the phenomenon is so idiosyncratic and complex that a single approach or intervention is not likely to be effective? * How can we apply an appropriately systemic perspective? * How can we convey respect? Non-judgment?
* How can we be embrace underachievers in programs? * How can we stop "being like every other adult" in how we approach non-performing gifted kids? * How can we avoid predicting the future on the basis of one developmental stage?
Need for clear, precise definition of gifted underachievement. Further research and inquiry into interventions.
* Reis, S. and McCoach, D.B.; The Underachievement of Gifted Students: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go? National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), Gifted Child Quarterly Summer 2000 Vol. 44, No. 3, pp *Rimm, Sylvia B. Underachievement Syndrome: Causes and Cures. Apple Publishing Company. Sixth Printing, April (2008 now available at Great Potential Press.)
* Roberts, Julia (2008, Summer) Multiple Ways to Define Academic Success: What Resonates With You? The Challenge, 21, *Peterson, Jean Sunde, Ph.D. Responding To Underachievement 2007 NAGC Convention, CD- ROM, Purdue University
*Seeley, K.: Gifted Talented Students at Risk. Focus On Exceptional Children, Vol. 37, N0. 4, December * Siegle, D. and McCoach, D. B. Making a Difference: Motivating Gifted Students Who Are Achieving TEACHING Exceptional Children, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp Copyright 2005 CEC.