Underachievement is defined as a student achieving less than their potential would indicate they should be capable of attaining. The big question of underachievement isn't what, but WHY. Since gifted students are considered capable of extremely high academic performance, there are very high expectations set upon them. Some of them will simply not perform at 100% all the time. One thing to keep in mind is that gifted usually doesn't mean one is outstanding at ALL things, and certainly not at all times. There may be a subject or two that one is weak in or more commonly, one or two that simply don't appeal to the student. "Why Bother?!" is the most common thing I've heard from gifted underachievers. Honestly although the gifted underachiever is a nonconformist, they are more healthy than the perfectionist who neurotically strives to achieve 100% all the time. They're capable of selecting that which interests them and is deserving of their time and effort. It's also quite possible that the environment is hostile to those who do achieve - either the teacher may be making it unappealing by heaping more difficult and possibly similarly uninteresting work on those who do well or the other students may be harrassive of the high achievers. For some reason the student has decided it is not SAFE or SMART or WORTHY of him to do the work.

Possible Reasons for Underachievement:

So what do we do about this? We can make it safer with less punishment from the home and school environments for achieving and not always expecting this high level of performance. We can eliminate the extra unnecessary, repetitive work such as homework doing practice problems for a unit the student already knows. We can give pretests to verify this mastery and have accountability of it. We can make it more rewarding by allowing students to study what they want once the content mastery is demonstrated. We can give honor for meaningful high achievements.

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