Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Motivation: The Blame Game 1

This series on under- and selective-achievement will not be posted consecutively due to the start of school and important information for my own students, but eventually I'll get to all of them. Fair warning: these posts will be on the serious academic side, with proper APA citations and everything. Prepare yourself.
Neumeister and Hébert (2003) identified four categories of factors which influence under- and selective achievement by gifted students: individual, family, school, and social. This post will focus on several aspects of the “individual” category, and subsequent entries will tackle additional individual factors as well as the other three categories. The final post in this series will address specifics of what we (students, peers, parents, teachers, administrators, counselors, and other influential adults) can do to address the problems of low motivation and underachievement.
Boredom is, of course, a major problem for gifted students, and it is created by a combination of individual (personality, psychology) and school (content, instruction, learning environment) factors (Kanevsky and Keighley, 2003). A second central issue is perfectionism or unrealistic expectations. In other words, if students are overly self-critical or set goals which are unreasonably high, they set themselves up to fail at the present task and to underachieve in the future in order to avoid making the same mistakes (Frey, 2002; Siegle, 2006).
Hébert (1998), in his research on underachievement by black male students, focused on psychological factors. In his summation of Ford’s 1996 research, he noted her emphasis on adults’ ability to recognize giftedness as it is influenced by “cultural, racial, economic, and linguistic backgrounds”; it logically follows that educators’ failure to make these connections results in a school experience that is “less relevant and less personally meanintful [sic]”.
These factors could be viewed as being “the student’s fault” since they certainly incorporate elements of personality and personal responsibility for learning, but we must also recognize our own responsibilities as educators. Should we not be making the participatory experience of “school” relevant for our students? Why do we expect them to care if we are not providing them with real, significant, and applicable information and skills? Cross (2002) asked an interesting question: “What if we put the well-being of the individual student (including gifted students) first in planning and carrying out school activities?” Students surely must bear some responsibility for creating a meaningful and useful school experience, but we must also do our part in crafting the environments, materials, and relationships that will be models for their future interactions.

Cross, T. (2002). Putting the well-being of all students (including gifted students) first. Gifted Child Today, 25(4), 14-17.

Frey, C. (2002). Dealing with the needs of underachieving gifted students in a suburban school district: What works!. The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, Spring.

Hébert, T. (1998). Gifted black males in an urban high school: Factors that influence achievement and underachievement. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 21(4), 385-414.

Kanevsky, L. & Keighley, T. (2003). To produce or not to produce?: Understanding boredom and the honor in underachievement. Roeper Review, 26(1), 20-28.

Neumeister, K. & Hébert, T. (2003). Underachievement versus selective achievement: Delving deeper and discovering the difference. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 26(3), 221-238.

Siegle, D. (2006). 10 tips for breaking the underachievement cycle. EduFest presentation.


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