Giftedness and Underachievement

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9th February 2018

Giftedness and Underachievement

According to the US Department of Education, 1993, gifted children are those with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience or environment.
We come across many such children in the school environment who are gifted in a particular ability or generally gifted. A child might excel in mathematics to the extent that she is much above her age/level of understanding. But she might not be that strong in languages. Her love for mathematics might supersede her focus on other subjects. If the child’s only focus becomes mathematics since she is so passionate about it, then it is difficult for her to perform in other subjects. The schools follow a strict curriculum and the children are supposed to devote equal time to all the taught subjects. There is not much of a scope for a child to only concentrate on one thing.
If the child has a general intellectual ability, then also it is sometimes difficult for her to excel in school without getting any help. Most of the times the child is so bored with the regular class room activities that she either shuts herself out or starts disturbing the class. Since the everyday assignments are not challenging enough, it is difficult to concentrate. By underplaying her ability she is certainly forced to come down much below her level of intellect. Another reason for underplaying and thus under achieving might be peer acceptance. No child wants to look “different” in any sense of the word.
Failing to reach their full potential due to boredom or alienation leads to other problems in the minds of gifted children. Most of them are aware of their capabilities and then, if they are unable to get good grades in school, they might get depressed or develop other behavioral issues.
If the progress and achievements of the gifted children are left to fate, then there are chances that they will surely become under achievers. The first step is to recognize the traits of the child to ensure that she is truly gifted. Here are some common traits of a gifted child-
• Gifted students are often perfectionist and idealistic.
• Gifted students may experience heightened sensitivity to their own expectations and those of others.
• Gifted students are asynchronous.
• Some gifted students are “mappers” (sequential learners), while others are “leapers” (spatial learners).
• Gifted students may be so far ahead of their chronological age mates that they know half the curriculum before the school year begins!
• Gifted children are problem solvers.
• Gifted students often think abstractly and with such complexity that they may need help with concrete study and test-taking skills.
• Gifted students who do well in school may define success as getting an “A” and failure as any grade less than an “A”.
• Gifted children have unusual talent in one or occasionally two areas and these areas could be- creative thinking, general intellectual ability, specific academic ability, leadership, psychomotor, visual/performing Arts.
If the parent and the school have been able to identify a child as gifted, care has to be taken to nurture this giftedness in all possible ways. This means giving them challenging tasks according to their own mental capability. By giving them broader and deeper learning experiences as well as differential instructions, one can stimulate their intellectual growth. Other ways are individual plans, acceleration, curriculum compacting and cluster grouping. In case of non academic giftedness, opportunities should be provided for learning and excelling in those particular areas.
All gifted children need to get the essential support in order to flourish and realize their full potential. As parents and educators we need to ensure that their giftedness is nurtured well and does not go waste.

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