Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Underachievement, Intervention, Gifted

Major Advisor

Kehle, Thomas J.

Associate Advisor

Bray, Melissa

Associate Advisor

Reis, Sally M.

Field of Study

Educational Psychology


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


Debate has long existed amongst researchers and educators about the causes of underachievement in bright students, and about how to best reverse the process once it has begun. Unfortunately, despite decades of research into the topic, few easy answers have emerged to guide best practices for recognizing, preventing, and treating underachievement in this population. Research suggests, however, that a variety of factors, including negative attitudes towards teachers, classes, and school, distinguish high-potential underachievers from their more successful peers. The purpose of this single-subject study was to determine whether a counseling intervention designed to address negative perceptions of school would improve attitudes and increase academic engagement and achievement in three underachieving middle school students. All three participants were seventh-grade boys at a suburban middle school in central Connecticut. Each had been nominated by his teachers as a student who appeared to have above average cognitive ability but below average grades. Participation in the study required a grade point average in academic classes at or below 2.7., and a score at or above the 85th percentile on a standardized test of vocabulary that has been shown to correlate positively with cognitive ability. Results of the study were mixed across students and variables. Only one student showed improved attitudes toward school, teachers, and classes. All participants showed some positive changes in adaptive and maladaptive behaviors across the study, but there was no measurable impact on achievement as measured by GPA for any of the participants. Possible causes for these outcomes are discussed and suggestions are provided for future research and practice.