What is Academic Underachievement?


Academic Underachievement is extremely complex, and for parents and students, extremely frustrating.  It’s defined simply as a mismatch between competence and performance and involves an interplay of intellect, attitude/effort, and skills.

All students have their own unique profile of strengths and weaknesses when it comes to their intellect.  These natural abilities include memory, attention, processing speed, psychomotor functioning among others.  They do have an impact on academic performance, but we argue that their impact is less than most people believe. 

Clearly, a positive attitude and a good work ethic is the great equalizer when it comes to differences in intellect.  Students who can remain disciplined and persistent when confronted by difficulty, who can interpret failure in positive ways and learn from their mistakes, and who relish academic challenges are at a big advantage over those students who rely on intellect alone.  However, as parents and teachers know all too well, it’s very difficult to ‘make’ someone work harder.  Classic motivation theory tells us that work ethic and attitude come from within and are not easily influenced by others – at least not directly.

So, what’s the solution?  At StudySpot, the solution lies in the third aspect of academic underachievement: Skills.  Our view is that schools and traditional tutors spend far too much time on content and not nearly enough on skill development.  Underachieving students need to learn, develop, and practice skills like note-taking, textbook management, study techniques, and organizational and time management strategies.  In the context of a positive and inspirational relationship with a coach or mentor, our students learn how to learn. They learn to draw connections between what they do and the result they get. They learn about controlling their lives and controlling their future by altering their approach to school and managing their lives more effectively. 

After all, isn’t that what a ‘good education’ is all about?