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The Heights school acknowledges that not all gifted students will work to their full potential and as a school we are committed to exploring the issues associated with Underachievement.

The following information may assist in identifying Gifted Underachievers and give a few strategies that may assist in helping students to share more of what they are able to do and understand.

This is by no means a definitive list and the school continues to work with parent, students and teachers to find ways that Underachievement can be overcome or worked with.

Underachievers with high spatial strengths

  • Early Ability In Puzzles And Mazes
  • Sophisticated Sense Of Humour
  • Elaborate Doodler
  • Daydream – Richer Fantasy Life
  • Creative Thinker
  • High Abstract Reasoning Ability
  • Keen Visual Memory
  • Avid Tv Fan
  • Loves Computers – Especially Computer Graphics
  • Highly Capable In Science
  • Excels In Geometry
  • Grasps Metaphors And Analogies
  • Enjoys Music

Sequential and Spatial Learners
Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D

Sequential Leaner Spatial Learner
Step-by-step learner Whole-part learner
Learns by trial-and-error Learns concepts all at once
Analytic thinker Systems thinker – sees complex relationships
Good at computation Good at mathematical reasoning
Follows oral directions well May be inattentive in class; needs to be shown
Learns phonics easily Poor at phonics; needs a sight/whole language approach
Good at spelling Poor at spelling; needs to visualise words
Good at rote memorisation Poor at rote memorisation; excellent with abstractions
Good at timed tests Poor at timed tests; these should be avoided
Good handwriting; neat Poor handwriting; should use a keyboard for assignments
Well organised May be disorganised
Progresses sequentially from easy to difficult Learns complex systems easily; struggles with easy work
Learns from models Prefers to develop own methods of problem solving
May need repetition to reinforce learning Learning usually permanent; turned off by repetition
Can show work easily Arrives at correct solutions without taking steps
Good at Biology/Foreign languages Good at Geometry and Physics
Academically talented Creatively/technologically gifted
Early bloomer Late bloomer

Reference : “Developing Self Concept Through Affective Curriculum” by L K Silverman

Behaviours Seen in Intellectually Gifted/Talented Students

Characteristics Positive Behaviours Negative Behaviours
Learns rapidly and easily Memorises and masters basic facts quickly Gets bored easily, resists drill, disturbs others, daydreams
Reads intensively Reads many books and uses library on own Neglects other responsibilities
Advanced vocabulary Communicates ideas well Shows off, invokes peer resentment
Retains a quantity of information Ready recall and responses Monopolises discussions
Long attention span Sticks with a task or project Resists class routine, dislikes interruptions
Curious, has a variety of interests Asks questions, gets excited about ideas Goes on tangents, no follow through
Works independently Creates and invents beyond assigned tasks Refuses to work with others
Alert and observant Recognises problems Impolitely correct adults
Has a good sense of humour Able to laugh at self Plays cruel jokes or tricks on others
Comprehends, recognises relationships Able to solve social problems alone Interferes in the affairs of others
High academic achievement Does school work well Brags, egotistical, impatient with others
Fluent, verbal facility Forceful with words, numbers; leads peers in positive way Leads others into negative behaviours
Individualistic, challenges ideas Asserts self and ideas, has sense of own uniqueness Has few friends, nonconforming, stubborn in beliefs
Self motivated, self- sufficient Requires minimum teacher direction or help Is over-aggressive, challenges authority

A checklist to identify gifted underachievers

Observe and interact with the child over a period of at least two weeks to determine if he or she possesses the following characteristics. If the student exhibits ten or more of the listed traits, including all that are asterisked, individual intelligence testing (Stanford-Binet or WISC-R) is recommended to establish whether he or she is a gifted underachiever.

* Poor test performance
* Achieving at or below grade-level expectations in one or all of the basic skill areas : Reading, Language Arts, Mathematics
* Daily work frequently incomplete or poorly done
* Superior comprehension and retention of concepts when interested
* Vast gap between qualitative level of oral and written work
  Exceptionally large repertoire of factual knowledge
  Vitality of imagination: Creative
  Persistent dissatisfaction with work accomplished, even in Art
* Seems to avoid trying new activities to prevent imperfect performance: evidences perfectionism, self-criticism
  Shows initiative in pursuing self-selected projects at home
* Has a wide range of interests and possible special expertise in an area of investigation and research
* Evidences low self-esteem in tendencies to withdraw or be aggressive in the classroom
  Does not function comfortably or constructively in a group of any size
  Shows acute sensitivity and perceptions related to self, others and life in general
  Tends to set unrealistic self-expectations: goals too high or too low
  Dislikes practice work or drill for memorisation and mastery
  Easily distracted: unable to focus attention and concentrate efforts on tasks
  Has an indifferent or negative attitude towards school
  Resists teacher efforts to motivate or discipline behaviour in class
  Has difficulty in peer relationships: maintains few friendships

From Joanne Whitmore (1980) Giftedness, Conflict and Underachievement. Allyn and Bacon. This is an excellent book on underachievement and demotivation among gifted students, which schools would find a most practical resource.

Creativity Checklist
(Ref: Clark, B (1979) Growing Up Gifted p.248)

In general creative individuals may be described as having the following rational attributes :

  • Self –disciplined, independent, often anti-authoritarian
  • Zany sense of humour
  • Able to resit group pressure, a strategy developed early
  • More adaptable
  • More adventurous
  • Greater tolerance for ambiguity and discomfort
  • Little tolerance for boredom
  • Preference for complexity, asymmetry, open-endedness
  • High in divergent thinking ability
  • High in memory, good attention to detail
  • Broad knowledge background
  • Need think periods
  • Need supportive climate, sensitive to environment
  • Need recognition, opportunity to share
  • High aesthetic values, good aesthetic judgment
  • Freer in developing sex role integration ; lack of stereotypical male, female identification

Creative individuals tend to :

  • Be more sensitive
  • Have richer fantasy life and greater involvement in daydreaming
  • Be more enthusiastic and impulsive