Underachievement of Gifted Students

How Many Gifted Students Underachieve

Research has estimated that half of all identified gifted students underachieve. This estimate does not include all of the students that go unidentified. Gifted students go unidentified due poverty, cultural difference, geographic isolation, learning disabilities or underachievement. Gifted students often get overlooked because educators and parents don’t think that they need to worry or spend as much time helping gifted students because the typical stereotype of a gifted student is that they are high achievers. (Smutney).

What is a Gifted Student

Children are considered to be gifted when they have an ability that is significantly above what is typical for their age. Giftedness can appear in many different areas such as intellectual, creative artistic, leadership, or academic fields like mathematics, language arts or science. (McWilliams)

Gifted students Vs. High Achieving students

Gifted students have many differences to High Achieving students. The way they develop, are motivated, perceive and react to the world, and replenish their energy are different then high achieving students. High achieving students may seem to develop more quickly than the average student in physical, cognitive, social and emotional domains. Theses domains develop in sync for high achieving students. Gifted students develop asynchronous their cognitive and emotional domains develop faster than the other domains. Gifted students are motivated intrinsically. They generally show an interest and perform best when an activity is individualized, meaningful and is related to their passion. Gifted students prefer to look at multiple perspectives, ponder ideas and ask questions instead of memorizing and practicing material and skills they have already mastered. High achieving students are often motivated extrinsically. High achieving students thrive on knowing the answer and please their teachers, show interest in assignments and memorize and understand easily. Gifted students often show more sensitivity, awareness, and emotional intensity than high achieving students. Gifted students tend to understand situations, people and behaviors more completely than high achieving students. Gifted students also tend to have introverted behaviors and see groups of other students as distracting. High achieving students enjoy and thrive by spending time with others. (McWilliams)

 Strategies to Help Gifted Students Achieve

It is beneficial to look at each student individually due to the fact that underachievement can be caused by many different factors. To help determine the cause collaborate with the parents. An individual plan should than be created. Often times creating an environment that rewards creativity works well. Gifted students also are helped when project or problem based learning is implemented. During this process it is important to focus on the students gifts. This helps keep them from focusing on their weaknesses and getting discouraged. It is also very beneficial for gifted students to find a mentor or role model. (Smutney)


Mcwilliams, C. (2018, January 26). What Does Being Gifted Really Mean?. Retrieved from: https://gifted.msu.edu/about/226/what-does-being-gifted-really-mean

Smutney, J. (2004, December 4). Meeting the Needs of Gifted Underachievers – Individually!. Retrieved From: http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10442

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