3rd Six Weeks 2015-2016
Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Students: Underachievement (Information from Siegle, D. & McCoach, D.B., Davidson Institute for Talent Development
"He is so bright, but his grades just don't reflect it." "I know she is capable of so much more if she would just give more effort!" Have you ever heard or thought these words about your gifted child? While we often think of gifted students as exceptional learners who shouldn't be at risk for academic failure, underachievement is an area of concern and frustration for both parents and educators of many gifted students. Why do some students, who should be capable of outstanding performance, fail to realize their potential? What causes some gifted students to underachieve in school? Can we predict which gifted students are at the greatest risk for underachievement? What can we do to reverse a student's academic underachievement?
While there are many factors that contribute to achievement in students, students who are achievement-oriented tend to have some common characteristics and behaviors including the following:
1. They Value Academic Tasks
First and foremost, students must value academics. "When students value a task, they will be more likely to engage in it, expend more effort on it, and do better on it" (Wigfield, 1994, p. 102). Students who do not value the goals of school do not find any purpose in what they are learning, they don't see any pay-off for learning it, and they're not interested in learning it, so they turn off and tune out. The following are some minor modifications that will increase the task value of activities for students:
- Encourage and promote your students' interests and passions.
- Help students to see beyond the immediate activity to the long-term outcomes. A school assignment may seem unimportant, but pursuing a dream career may be an outcome that your student is willing to strive toward. Parents and educators may wish to share how they use various skills learned in school.
- Help students to set short and long-term academic goals. Small, short-term goals work better for younger students. It is essential that the goals are meaningful to students. Talk with them about possible goals. Remember, goals that adults value may have little meaning to children.
- Students are more likely to become engaged with material that is optimally challenging. Ensure that all students are challenged (but not frustrated) by classroom activities.
2. They Have Self-Efficacy
Young people must also believe they have the skills to perform the task. Self-efficacy refers to individuals' judgment of their capacity to perform specific activities. The perceptions students have about their skills influence the types of activities they select, how much they challenge themselves at those activities, and the persistence they exhibit once they are involved in the activities
- help your child realize that they have the skills they need to do well. Point out skills that they have developed that will help make them successful with the task at hand.
- Be specific with praise. Instead of a general compliment such as "good job", tell them specifically what they did well on, such as "wow, look at how well you've learned your times three tables!"
- Help students realize that abilities and skills are not innate. No one is immediately good at everything the first time they try it. It takes sustained effort and practice to master most skills.
3. Environmental View
Students who view their environment at both home and school as places that will provide positive outcomes are more likely to demonstrate achievement-orientated behaviors who view their environment as friendly and one that will provide positive outcomes are more likely to demonstrate achievement-oriented behavior. An underachiever's failure to assume responsibility may come from an unconscious belief that his/her own efforts do not affect the events or individuals in his/her world.
- If a student's view of their environment is distorted, then changes need to be made in the environment. These changes must be implemented with input from the student. For example, if a child feels it is too noisy to study at home, ask the child what needs to be done to make it quiet enough. It may be as simple as asking, "What would it take for you do well?" Students must be involved in helping find solutions to the environmental roadblocks they perceive.
The factors of task value, self-efficacy, and environmental perceptions are critical to being motivated. But being motivated may not be enough. Students must be engaged in and complete the task. They may feel that math is important, believe that they can do well in mathematics, and like their school and teachers, but they do not follow through and execute the math assignment.
- Gifted students need time management and study skills. Because gifted students often progress through the early years of school without being challenged, they sometimes fail to develop the self-management skills that other students master. In the early grades, good memory and fast processing skills can compensate for note taking and other study skills, but as students move to higher grade levels, they can no longer rely on memory alone to be successful.
- Gifted students should set personal standards. Some students may feel that what they are doing is "good enough." If students haven't been academically challenged in the past, they may believe they can achieve satisfactory results with very little effort. Gifted students may also underachieve to hide their need for perfectionism. Gifted students need to set realistic standards, keeping in mind that they do not need to make a 100% every single time and that they may have certain academic areas that are more challenging than others. The standard should be excellence, not perfection.
- Gifted students need to be able to self-monitor. This includes recognizing distractions, practicing delayed gratification, and awareness of performance avoidance. Gifted students need to be able to deal with distractions in a positive way and to plan out tasks that seem to large or overwhelming.