Overcoming Underachievement by decree

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Understanding Why Some Academically
Talented Students Underachieve
Sources for Workshop
   Sally Reis, Ph.D., University of Connecticut, NEAG
    School of Education
   Rimm, Sylvia B.: “Underachievement Syndrome: A
    National Epidemic”
   California Association for the Gifted: Meeting the
    Challenge: A Guidebook for Teaching Gifted
   Del Siegle, Ph.D., University of Connecticut
   Barbara Clark: Growing Up Gifted
What is underachievement
among gifted students?
It is a discrepancy between recognized ability
and actual academic performance. The causes
may be social, emotional, physical, and/or
academic, and they may originate at home or
at school.
   Overview
   Characteristics of Underachievers
   Research Findings
   Factors Involved in High Achievement
   Factors Involved in Underachievement
   Interventions and Strategies
   Support on Campus
From the Carnegie Foundation…
 “Make no mistake about it; underachievement is not
 a crisis of certain groups; it is not limited to the poor;
 it is not a problem afflicting other people’s children.
 Many middle- and upper-income children are also
 falling behind intellectually. By the fourth grade, the
 performance of most children in the US is below
 what it should be for the nation and is certainly
 below the achievement levels of children in
 competing countries.”
The Stages of Talent Development
Giftedness can be…
 Latent (under the
 Emergent (beginning to
   demonstrate itself)
 Manifest (in full
Characteristics of Gifted
   Low self-concept               May have poor coping
   More socially than              skills
    academically oriented          May attribute successes or
   May use defense                 failures to outside forces
    mechanisms                     May avoid difficult tasks in
   Often do not exhibit goal       order to protect their
    directed behavior               conception of their ability
   May avoid competition          May be dependent
   May be passive-aggressive      May develop coping
   May be rebellious or            mechanisms that reduce
    antisocial                      short term stress but inhibit
                                    long term success
   May fear success               May be socially immature
More Characteristics of
Gifted Underachievers
   May have a negative              May possess poor self-
    attitude toward school            regulation strategies
   May avoid challenging            May attribute success to
    situations to protect their       luck and failures to lack of
    self image                        ability
   May be more likely to be         May be inattentive or
    male than female                  hyperactive
   May be anxious or                May be easy going,
    impulsive                         considerate, or unassuming
   May be distrustful or            May be depressed
    pessimistic                      May be uninvolved in
                                      school activities
One Study About High Achievers from
Stressful Home Environments Found…
Commonalities of the High Achievers
   Belief in self
   Personal characteristics (sensitivity, independence,
    determination to succeed, inner will, resilience)
   Support systems (network for high achievers, family
    support, other supportive adults)
   Participation in special programs, extra-curricular
    activities, summer enrichment programs
   Appropriately challenging courses
   Realistic expectations
Personal Factors Influencing
   Behavior problems and disciplinary issues
   Problems with unstructured time
   Confusing or unrealistic expectations
   Insufficient perseverance and low self-
   Inappropriate coping strategies
Family Factors Influencing
   Family dysfunction
   Strained relations with family members
   Problems with siblings including rivalry
   Inconsistent role models and value systems in
    the family
   Minimal paternal academic monitoring,
    guidance, and expectations
Negative Response from Relatives
   Some, but not all, of the high achieving
    participants in the study encountered negative
    responses from relatives or friends because
    they are perceived to be working too hard in
    school. These relatives tell they they’re crazy
    to work so hard in school, as Jana explained:
   “I have an uncle who says, “Why are you
    wasting your time? Why don’t you just get a
    job and forget about school?”
School Factors Influencing
   Inappropriate early curricular experiences in
    elementary school
   Absence of opportunity to develop
    appropriate school work habits
   Negative interactions with teachers
   Unrewarding curriculum in middle and high
   Questionable counseling experiences
Lack of Work Habits
and Self-Regulation
   All underachievers in the study echoed the same
   “I never learned how to work hard!”
   “Elementary school and middle school were so easy
    for me, and I never learned how to work.”
   “I coasted through elementary and middle school
    and then fell apart in the advanced classes in my
    high school.”
Underachievement Appears to Be
Episodic and Periodic
   It can occur in some
    years and not others.
   It can occur in some
    classes and not others.
   But increasing episodes
    of underachievement
    may produce a more
    chronic pattern.
Important Findings
   Peers play a major role in keeping underachievement
    from occurring in their closest friends.
   Adolescents involved in clubs, extra-curricular
    activities, sports, and religious activities tend to be
    effective learners in school.
   Helping gifted students develop regular patterns of
    work and practice seems to be very beneficial.
    Music, dance, and art lessons, combined with regular
    time for homework and reading, can help develop
    positive self-regulation strategies.
More Important Findings
   A caring adult (a teacher, counselor, or coach)
    in school can help reverse the process of
   Many students underachieve as a result of the
    lack of a stimulating curriculum.
   Many students became more achievement
    oriented when they were given the
    opportunity to pursue topics that genuinely
    interested them.
What helps students to overcome
   Developing self-efficacy: the belief in one’s ability
    to accomplish something.
   Developing self-regulation strategies: personal,
    behavioral, and environmental
   Crafting a goal setting methodology
   Correcting distorted thinking
   Involving parents in getting work done at home by
    temporarily sitting with student nightly
   Positive relationships with teachers
Personal Self-Regulation Strategies
   Organizing and
    transforming information
    (outlining, summarizing,
    highlighting, flashcards,
   Goal setting and planning
   Keeping records and
    monitoring (note-taking,
    list of errors made, keeping
    portfolios and drafts)
   Rehearsing and
Behavioral Self-Regulation Strategies
   Self-evaluating (checking quality or progress)
       Task analysis (what does the teacher want me to
        do? What do I want out of it?)
       Self-instructions
       attentiveness
   Self-consequating
       Treats to motivate; self-reinforcement
       Arrangement or imagination of punishments;
        delay of gratification
Environmental Strategies
   Seeking information
       Library resources
       Internet resources
       Reviewing cards
       Rereading records, texts, textbooks
   Environmental structuring
       Selecting or arranging the physical setting
       Isolating/eliminating or minimizing distractions
       Break up study periods over time
   Seeking social assistance
       From teachers, other adults, peers, and exemplary models
What Parents Can Do
   Provide an intellectually stimulating, curiosity-producing
    atmosphere in your home.
   Establish a close, mutually respectful relationship with your
   Model the behavior you desire your child to have.
   Do not compare siblings.
   Help your child establish effective time priorities.
   Guide your children toward goals of their interest, but do not
    set goals for them.
   Show your affection, trust, and approval.
   Support your child; get involved.
What Teachers Can Do
   Value achievements of high-ability students
   Assess each student regularly and know your
    students’ learning profiles.
   Provide opportunities for students to build self-
   Create an open, accepting, warm, intellectually
    challenging learning environment.
   Give the underachiever an opportunity to focus on
    an area of ability such as music, art, or athletics.
What Else Teachers Can Do
   Be available when help
    is needed
   Confer with the student
    periodically about
    personal and academic
   Look for ways to meet
    individual needs.
William Glasser’s Choice Theory
All behavior is made up of      Do not allow a student to to
   four components:              say someone else “made”
                                 her do something or react
   acting, feeling,
   thinking, and
                                Have a student use verbs to
   physiology.                   describe feelings, rather
All behavior is chosen,          than adjectives. (“I am
   and the only person           choosing to be angry.”)
   whose behavior we can
   control is our own.
Ellis’s Rational Emotive Behavioral Model
   A is the activating event, experience, or adversity. (I received
    a C in English.)
   B is the student’s belief. (“I am no good. I am a failure.)
   C is the consequence--a feeling or behavior. (“Now everyone
    thinks I’m useless. I’ll never be able to do English.”)
   D is the dispute that challenges dysfunctional beliefs.
    (“Where is the evidence of the above?)
   E stands for effective new strategies. (“Most likely, if I keep
    trying, I’ll succeed at this.”)
Automatic Thoughts to Correct
1.   Depression: hopelessness, worthlessness,
     helplessness (“I’ll never amount to anything and
     there’s nothing I can do to change things.”)
2.   Anxiety: danger and vulnerability (“I’ll fail for sure
     and people will think I’m an idiot.”)
3.   Anger: being treated unfairly, unreasonable
     obstacles, deliberate provocation (“That teacher is
     trying to get me. This is so unfair.”)
Automatic Thoughts and
Correction Strategies 1
   Arbitrary Inference: no      CORRECTION
    evidence supports the         STRATEGY:
    conclusion                    Accumulate hard
   “Luck gets you into           evidence to test the
    college, not good             conclusion.
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 2
   Overgeneralization:         CORRECTION
    general conclusion is        STRATEGY: Examine
    drawn from a single          how much evidence
    event; jumping to            supports or opposes the
    conclusions                  conclusion; have
   “My teachers all think       student provide
    I’m lazy.”                   alternative conclusions.
Automatic Thoughts and Corrective
Strategies 3
   Catastrophizing:                CORRECTION
    overreaction; gross              STRATEGY: In terms
    exaggeration of an               of percentages, look at
    event, with focus on             the odds of the worst
    the worst case scenario          case scenario
   “I know I’ll fail the test       happening; look at past
    so I’m not going to              successes.
    bother studying.”
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 4
   Minimization: gross               CORRECTION
    underestimation of an event;       STRATEGY: List
    tendency to downplay a
                                       short-term and long-
    cause when other reasons
    are present                        term consequences;
   “My poor work habits are           how does this impact
    no big deal because the            on you, regardless of
    teacher doesn’t check my           your teacher?
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 5
   Dichotomous Thinking:              CORRECTION
    interpreting events in              STRATEGY: Think in
    absolutes, with no tolerance
    for uncertainty; good or bad,
    right or wrong;                     acknowledge that this
    unreasonable expectations           is all-or-nothing
   “I’m a complete failure.”           thinking; seek middle
    “If I can’t do it perfectly,        ground or “grey” areas.
    I’m not even going to try.”
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 6
   Fallacy of Fairness:         Fairness is usually a
    believing that what one       disguise for personal
    wants is the only thing       preferences. Make
    that is fair                  specific, concrete
   “I should be able to do       suggestions; be willing
    whatever I want in            to compromise.
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 7
   “Should” Fallacies:           CORRECTION
    holding inflexible rules       STRATEGY: Compare
    and expectations;              the “shoulds, oughts,
    reality is inconsistent        and musts” to your
    with our expectations          wants; recognize that
    for how it should be.          the world will not
   “I have to get a 100%          always be consistent
    on every test.”                with your existing
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 8
   Mind Reading: without their         CORRECTION
    saying so, one believes one          STRATEGY: Examine
    knows exactly what people
                                         the evidence; list
    are thinking, especially with
    regard to oneself.                   specific people who
   “People know I should have           think this and why;
    succeeded and now they               how did they show it?
    think I’ll never be able to do
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 9
   Stereotyping:                 CORRECTION
    superficial belief about       STRATEGY: Seek
    an entire group without        exceptions: discuss
    recognizing individual         particulars rather than
    differences                    the group.
   “All my teachers
    expect me to be
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 10
   Selective Perception:         CORRECTION
    details are taken out of       STRATEGY: Instead
    context; ignoring the          of focusing on the
    whole picture to focus         problem, shift to a plan
    only on things of
    interest                       to improve the
   “I don’t need to be good
    at English because I’m
    good at computers.”
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 11
   Loss of Perspective:          CORRECTION
    salient features are           STRATEGY: Instead
    ignored; mental                of focusing on the
    filtering                      problem, shift to a plan
   “I can’t do this math so       to improve the
    I’ll never get into a          situation.
    good college.”
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 12
   Personalization:            CORRECTION
    unsupported perception       STRATEGY: Examine
    that an event reflects       the validity; seek
    upon oneself                 evidence.
   “Teachers in this
    school hate losers, so
    I’ll never do well
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 13
   Emotional Reasoning:        CORRECTION
    perceiving affective         STRATEGY: Point out
    data as fact                 the difference between
   “I’m stupid if I don’t       “objective” fact and
    know an answer.”             personal
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 14
   Internal Control              CORRECTION
    Fallacy: belief that one       STRATEGY: Choice
    is responsible for             Theory--You are only
    others’ problems               responsible for
   “If I don’t do well in         yourself.
    school, my parents will
    never be happy.”
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 15
   External Control             CORRECTION
    Fallacy: blaming others       STRATEGY: Choice
    for one’s own problem         Theory--No one else
   “It’s not my fault I          can “make” you do or
    don’t do well.”               feel anything.
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 16
   Fallacy of Change:           CORRECTION
    believing that another        STRATEGY: Choice
    person must be                Theory--Your
    pressured to change so        happiness depends on
    that one can be happy         changes made in
   “If I could get my math       yourself, not on getting
    teacher to lay off me,        others to change.
    everything would be
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 17
   Ad Hominem Fallacy:        CORRECTION
    attacking a person          STRATEGY: ABCDE
    rather than dealing         method
    with an issue
   “My teacher is out to
    get me.”
Automatic Thoughts and Correction
Strategies 18
   Resistance to Change:       CORRECTION
    decisions are                STRATEGY: ABCDE
    inflexible; refusal to       method
    change a behavior even
    if it is causing
   “There’s no use trying
University of Connecticut’s
Website on Underachievement
Support on Campus
   GATE Coordinator: Mr.
    Steve Kahl
   CHAC Counselors
   Academic Counselors
   Teachers
   Administrators
   Our Librarian: Mr. Ben
   Student Activities
   Academic Support Class

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