Underachievers
This paper addresses the issue of how a negative self concept can effect
achievement of gifted students. it specifically focuses on the effect of academic
achievement, discusses what it means to be both an underachiever and have a
negative self concept, how to identify these students and what family and
teachers can do about this. PAPER Many academically gifted children underachieve
in school classrooms as a result of the fact that they do not know how to
achieve higher a or they feel they cannot achieve a task that they are expected
to be able to but find it too difficult. Underachievement is a pervasive problem
which results in a tremendous waste of human potential among our most able
students. In fact, in 1972 the U.S. Commissioner of Education estimated that

17.6% of gifted ( both academically and non-academically) students drop out of
high school, and that percentage is probably even higher today. (Schnieder,

1997) and to add a New Zealand perspective, Moltzen (in McAlpine and Moltzen,

1996) suggest that 10-20% of students who do not graduate are gifted. These
students hold a negative self concept of themselves as they have not received
the support necessary to be able to work and achieve at their own level. There
are many different contributing factors to the establishing of self concepts and
how they effect gifted children. . This paper addresses how gifted children form
negative self concepts of themselves and how can effect their achievement in an
academic school setting. First it is necessary to provide the background
knowledge and the definitions on areas that are to be discussed. For the purpose
of this paper the definition of self concept is a persons view of self, in
relation to their perception of feed back from others. This view occurs in both
academic and non-academic areas. (Fox, 1993 in Rawlinson, 1996) To specifically
focus on the academic area of self concepts which is being addressed in this
paper , an academic self concept is a relatively stable set of attitudes and
feelings reflecting self evaluation of ones ability to successfully perform
basic school related tasks such as reading, writing, spelling and maths. (Boersma
& Chapman,1992 in Rawlinson, 1996) Self concepts tend to be domain specific,
meaning that pupils have different self concepts towards different areas of the
curriculum (Schunk,1990) but to avoid complications throughout this paper all
academic subjects will all be inclusive with each other. The definition of underachievement
is not as straight forward as that of self concept as many people have different
ideas on what it means to underachieve. Wellington and Wellington (1965) suggest
that under achievers have a low level of aspiration. In its simplest form it can
be defined as a unfulfilled potential (Moltzen in McAlpine and Moltzen, 1996)
but neither of these definitions provide much capture the essence of
underachievement in gifted children as they do not provide enough detail as to
the difference between what they are achieving and what they could achieve. The
definition of the purpose of this assignment is provided by Davis and Rimm( 1994
in Moltzen, 1996) who define underachievement as a discrepancy between the Childs
school performance and some index of his or her actual ability such as
intelligence, achievement, or creativity score or observational data. Because a
gifted student underachieves it does not mean that they are failing in the
school system. Gifted students are generally capable of performing at least two
levels ahead of their age peers. If they are not identified as being gifted,
they are seldom challenged to perform in accord with their potential. In fact,
these capable students may be considered underachievers even when they get"good" grades.( Schneider, 1997) All children are natural learners and begin
life with a drive to acquire knowledge, understand it and make use of it
according to their abilities. Children do not begin school with the intention of
seeking failure or frustrating their teachers. (Schnieder, 1997) And gifted
children definitely do not go out to seek failure. How pupils use this newly
found information that they have learnt and how teachers react to how they use
this information or how well they achieve, contributes to the forming of self
concepts. An individuals self concept is formed as a result of interactions and
experiences with others and is learned and acquired over time. (Rawlinson, 1996)

In reinforcement to the idea that self concepts are learned, Scheirer &

Kraut (1979) suggest with specific reference to academia that a self concept is
a product of interactive outcomes with ones academic environment with an
emphasis on accumulated pattern of