Why gifted students dumb down: QUT study

Why some gifted students fail to achieve academically is being investigated by Queensland University of Technology researcher Susan Luus.

Ms Luus said underachievement was most likely to occur in early adolescence, even when students were placed in extension classes.

“Underachievement is a behaviour pattern that can become established,” she said.

“Underachievement can have severe repercussions for students and can limit their future opportunities and contributions to society.

“It can also lead to high-risk behaviours such as delinquency, substance abuse, leaving school early and teenage pregnancy.”

Ms Luus said underachievement was most likely between the ages of 10 and 14.

“I’ve worked in a number of schools and that’s the age when achievement falls by the wayside for gifted children,” she said.

“We want to know why these students are not achieving.”

Her masters research, through QUT’s Education Faculty, will focus on the life experiences of a group of Year 8 and 9 inner-Brisbane students identified as gifted.

Ms Luus said that despite some schools grouping gifted children for instruction, some of these students still did not reach their potential.

She said reasons might include peer pressure, having other priorities, or reacting to teacher and parental expectations.

“They may feel expectations are too high so they underachieve to have some control,” Ms Luus said.

“Or if the work is too easy, they may feel it’s not worth getting involved.

“Often they modify their behaviour so they can fit in with everyone else in the class socially and they do not continue to develop their talents or their learning.”

Ms Luus, who has also worked with children with learning difficulties, said gifted children had been marginalised by society’s perception of them.

“For too long people have said: ‘This child is bright so we don’t have to do anything, they’ll make it on their own’.”

She said gifted children were not being offered the same level of support as children with learning difficulties.

“Every child has the right to learn something new every day,” she said.

Media contact: Elizabeth Allen, QUT media officer, on 07 3138 4494 or

*A high res photo of Susan Luus is available


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