This study aimed to examine the attitudes and lived experiences of individuals identified as 'gifted underachievers'. A mixed-methods approach was used to investigate the concept 'gifted underachievement' using a survey regarding student attitudes towards school and individual interviews. This study used a sequential explanatory design: the first phase compared gifted achievers and gifted underachievers to determine school-related attitude differences; the second phase used a transcendental phenomenological design to describe the lived experiences of those identified as gifted underachievers. A mixed methods approach allowed for the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative research methods to be utilized with evidence from survey and interview data. Keeping in mind that gifted underachievement occurs when students with identified superior ability do not perform at levels commensurate with those abilities (McCoach & Siegle, 2003a; White, Graham, & Blass, 2018), this study was conducted within a Central Florida school district and used the district's indicator of gifted underachievement: a student identified as gifted with a grade of C or lower in at least two classes. Grades were examined for the previous school year and the first half of the current school year. In addition to gifted eligibility, school district personnel also considered class grades, test history, teacher anecdotal records, and student diversity for potential subjects. Since research has shown that the middle school years appear to be critical years for gifted underachievers, this study focused on middle school students (Siegle, 2013; Peterson & Colangelo, 1996). This study can be used to inform best practices regarding gifted underachieving middle school students. Additionally, information from this study may be used in the prevention of underachievement for some students. "Understanding the factors contributing to the underachievement of young students is particularly important, as this would allow educators to intervene while children are still relatively young" (Obergriesser & Stoeger, p. 168). This study attempted to add to the body of knowledge regarding gifted underachievement so that this phenomenon can be better understood and mitigated.


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Graduation Date





Eriksson, Gillian


Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


College of Community Innovation and Education


Learning Sciences and Educational Research

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction




CFE0008125; DP0023461





Release Date

August 2023

Length of Campus-only Access

3 years

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)