Self-interventions of gifted underachievers: stories of success
Flint, Lori J
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During the more than fifty years society has recognized the concept of superior ability, or giftedness, a related issue has come to light: the fact that many of our brightest students are not achieving to their potential. Researchers have not arrived at a single clear explanation for this behavior or met with success in consistently reversing underachievement. Given that some of the best minds in the social sciences have been steadily attacking this problem without reliable success, how is it that some students have managed to self-intervene and reverse former poor performance? And, what factor(s) do they perceive as being critical to both their underachievement and subsequent success? Was there some particular moment when they suddenly decided to change? How did individuals who had been consistently told as students they would never amount to anything become self-fulfilled, competent, and successful citizens? The purpose of this study was to examine the phenomenon of gifted students who once underachieved but who have since become achievers. The life-story qualitative research data were collected from four gifted adult participants via individual questionnaires and in-depth semistructured personal interviews. Questions examined individual experiences of giftedness, related educational benefits and other issues, familial factors, social factors, and other pertinent information related to both giftedness and underachievement as well as perceptions related to both the moment and process of change. Data were then analyzed through inductive analytical processes. Once analyzed, the data described students who possessed both high intelligence and intellectual self-esteem, but who would not play The School Game. Participants came from families where important survival tactics such as study skills, self-regulation techniques, metacognitive processes or others were not taught, and parental involvement in children’s education was minimal. Lack of success in school led to years of personal difficulty, including substance abuse and suicidal tendencies, leading to hitting bottom. After hitting bottom, each made the conscious choice to change, which included a return to college to successfully complete formal education.