Academic journal article Psychology Science

Deficits in Fine Motor Skill as an Important Factor in the Identification of Gifted Underachievers in Primary School

Academic journal article Psychology Science

Deficits in Fine Motor Skill as an Important Factor in the Identification of Gifted Underachievers in Primary School

Article excerpt


The underachievement of gifted students is one of the most disturbing and, simultaneously, most enduring problems for gifted education. Previously, the identification of underachievement has largely focused on discrepancies between achievement and cognitive abilities. This is partially due to the fact that, despite having detected some of the reasons for underachievement, current knowledge is still fragmentary and cannot fully explain the phenomenon. In particular the association with fine motor skills has not yet been adequately investigated. In a study with 4th grade students, it was demonstrated that achievement differences between gifted underachievers (n = 31 ) and achievers (n = 97) could best be explained by their fine motor skills and the interaction between fine motor skills and concentration. These results provide the first indications that deficits in fine motor skills can be predictors of underachievement and, consequently, could well be integrated into the identification process in the future. The findings are discussed with regard to action regulation and in terms of educational implications.

Key words: Giftedness, Fine Motor Skills, School Age Children, Underachiever, Identification

Definition and identification of gifted underachievers

In the pertinent literature, underachievers are designated as gifted pupils who, contrary to expectations, produce poor scholastic performances (Butler-Por, 1993). Apparently they are not capable of exhausting their total learning potential. This phenomenon has been long established and observed. It first came into investigative focus in the well-known longitudinal study by Terman, which began in 1921 and has still not yet been concluded. In his sample of gifted pupils, Terman found substantial inter-individual differences in scholastic performance and subsequent academic and occupational achievements (Terman & Oden, 1947). Similar discrepancies between cognitive abilities and scholastic or occupational achievement are reported in widely disparate studies, in which cognitive ability and achievement levels are correlated with one another (e.g. Khatena, 1992; Ziegler & Stoeger, 2006).

The actual proportion of underachievers among the gifted is widely disputed and differs in accordance with various definitions of giftedness and approaches to identification. Richert (1991) estimates this figure in the United States, where most investigations on underachievement took place, to be at least 50 %. Rimm (2003) agreed with this evaluation in a publication titled ,,Underachievement: A national epidemic". In our own studies we were able to find comparable figures for Germany, when the data was based on the definitions of underachievement conventionally used in the United States (Stoeger & Ziegler, 2005; Ziegler & Stoeger, 2003). However, such definitions are highly arbitrary. Most are oriented on discrepancies between IQ and achievement measurements (for an overview refer to Peters, Grager-Loidl, & Supplée, 2000; Ziegler & Stoeger, 2003). For instance, Durr (1964), from the perspective of learning psychology, defined underachievement as a significant discrepancy between IQ and performance in the form of either scholastic achievement or the results of scholastic achievement tests. The cut-off points of such definitions are, however, completely random. Shaw (1964), for example, speaks of underachievement, when a child is among the top 25 % of his class with regard to intellectual abilities (IQ), but below class average with regard to performances. Similarly random is the definition used by Hanses and Rost (1998), whereby highly gifted underachievers are pupils with an IQ score of at least 96 and simultaneously, an achievement profile rating not higher than 50. In our own studies, we oriented our definition on the standard conventions, whereby one speaks of underachievement when the IQ is at least 130 and scholastic achievement is at least one standard deviation lower than the IQ measurement (Stoeger & Ziegler, 2005; Ziegler & Stoeger, 2003). …

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