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J Edu Health Promot 2020,  9:137

Enhancing academic engagement of underachieving gifted students: The effects of Martin's educational program

1 Master of Counseling in Yazd Science and Research Branch of The Islamic Azad University, Yazd, Iran
2 Department of Children with Special Needs, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran

Date of Submission29-Nov-2019
Date of Acceptance15-Feb-2020
Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ahmad Abedi
Department of Children with Special Needs, University of Isfahan, Isfahan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jehp.jehp_715_19

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INTRODUCTION: Gifted students are superior to their peers in terms of cognitive, educational, scientific, creativity, and artistic abilities. There are also gifted students who struggle with cognitive, educational, social, emotional, and behavioral development, especially academic performance. They are called underachieving students. One of the main problems of these students is the low level of academic engagement in educational settings. Thus, this study investigated the effectiveness of Martin's educational program on academic engagement (behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and agency) of underachieving gifted students.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Thirty underachieving gifted students were selected by purposeful sampling from a high school in Isfahan, Iran, and were divided randomly into the experimental (n = 15) and the control (n = 15) groups. All participants completed the students' academic engagement questionnaire (behavioral engagement, emotional engagement, cognitive engagement, and agency engagement) at pre/post-test.
RESULTS: The findings showed that Martin's cognitive-behavioral program had a significant effect on academic engagement and its subscales, including behavioral engagement, emotional engagement, cognitive engagement, and agency engagement.
CONCLUSION: School counselors could benefit Martin's cognitive-behavioral program to promote the academic engagement of underachieving gifted students.

Keywords: Academic engagement, Martin's cognitive-behavioral program, underachieving gifted student

How to cite this article:
Hesam M, Abedi A. Enhancing academic engagement of underachieving gifted students: The effects of Martin's educational program. J Edu Health Promot 2020;9:137

How to cite this URL:
Hesam M, Abedi A. Enhancing academic engagement of underachieving gifted students: The effects of Martin's educational program. J Edu Health Promot [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jun 14];9:137. Available from: https://www.jehp.net/text.asp?2020/9/1/137/288349

  Introduction Top

According to the National Association for Gifted Children (2010) in America, a gifted person is someone who shows the high levels of talent and ability in one or more aspects. Although there are different theories about giftedness, they emphasize that “a gifted student has higher cognitive abilities and intellectual capacity than peers in his/her age and grade.” According to this definition, a gifted student is a person who potentially shows higher levels of progress, compared to his/her peers. These students are more successful in academic settings and show more progress.[1] Given this definition, some questions arise: what happens to some gifted students who are not able to demonstrate their abilities and competencies? Why some gifted students are weaker than their classmates in academic and social performances? Sometimes, low motivation and academic engagement occur in gifted students, which, in turn, interfere with their educational, social, emotional, and behavioral skills. These students are called “underachieving gifted students.” In other words, an underachieving gifted student is a student who “shows a significant difference between his/her academic performances, intelligence, and abilities.”[2] That is, they have high intelligence and talent but show poor academic performance.[3] Studies suggest that 10%–15% of gifted students are classified as academic underachievement.[4] Many studies have focused on this issue over the past three decades. A lot of studies have been done since 1980 to answer teachers, parents, and psychologists who are involved in this troubling, yet confusing problem.[5] In general, the findings of the large body of research show two main factors that are involved in underachievement: individual factors and environmental factors (including, family and school). One of the individual factors is academic engagement and motivation. According to the research, underachievement occurs, not because of an inability to perform well, but because of unconscious or conscious choice.[3] In other words, these students may be inappropriately motivated or be motivated by beliefs and behaviors that undermine their academic achievement.[6] Taghinejad [7] suggests three important reasons that why some gifted students succeed less than expected: (1) lack of motivation for school-based learning, (2) environments that do not nurture their talents, and (3) neuropsychological problems (learning disorders, attention deficit, memory deficit, and executive dysfunction).[7] Following the latter, a lot of attention has been paid to the high-ability students with motivational problems.[8] In other words, this construct is considered a factor for poor academic performance, high levels of exhaustion, and lack of motivation and even dropping out among students.[9] Academic engagement could positively predict academic performance. In fact, academic engagement is a behavior (e.g., planning and perseverance) which gives the person some energy and interest to attend in school activities.[10] Academic engagement refers to the quality of effort that the students spend on purposeful educational activities to directly achieve the desired academic outcomes.[11] In general, academic engagement is a multidimensional construct, consisting of different behavioral, cognitive, and motivational component.[12] Academic engagement is a construct that was first introduced to understand and explain the academic failure [13] and is considered as the basis for reform in the educational field. In fact, academic engagement is a major factor in preventing academic failure and low level of motivation in schools.[11] Many studies have emphasized the important role of academic engagement in academic success.[11],[14] Numerous studies have shown that academic engagement at the school is positively associated with positive outcomes such as high grade-point average,[15] motivation, and long-term learning.[16] Previous research shows that students who are engaged in school have better academic performance.[17] Students who regularly attend class are more focused on learning and achieve a better grade point average and are more successful in the examinations.[18] In a study, Martin and March [19] showed that academic engagement has a positive effects on increasing academic motivation and competency. In fact, academic engagement is a key factor for students' interest in school-related activities. In addition, Yu and Martin [20] suggested that socioeconomic status and parents' educational level had a significant relationship with academic motivation and engagement. In other words, socioeconomic status and parents' educational level led to the academic promotion of the Chinese students. One of the interventions that have been tested for improving students' academic engagement in recent years is Martin's cognitive-behavioral program.[12] Martin [12] developed a cognitive-behavioral program, called “The Motivation and Engagement Wheel,” to increase the students' academic motivation and provides a framework for introducing the main theory of motivation and academic engagement. The program includes more integrated studies of motivation and enthusiasm. It consists of four dimensions: (1) the adaptive cognitive dimension that includes self-efficacy, valuing, and mastery orientation; (2) the adaptive behavioral dimension that consists of planning, task management, and persistence; (3) the impeding/maladaptive cognitive dimension that is subsumed by failure avoidance, uncertain control, and anxiety; and (4) the maladaptive behavioral dimension that includes self-handicapping and disengagement. The program indicates underlying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of academic engagement at school. In this model, motivation is divided into two groups of factors: enhancing and decreasing factors. The enhancing factors of academic motivation and engagement include task management, planning, persistence, valuing, mastery orientation, and beliefs about self. The decreasing factors of academic motivation and engagement include anxiety, uncertain control, failure avoidance, and self-handicapping. Although these components are not new and were suggested in previous theories, integrating them into the four operations is a new idea. It seems that among the four components of the wheel, the adaptive cognitive dimension, which includes valuing, mastery orientation, and self-efficacy, has an important and particular role in providing and maintaining the motivation. Self-efficacy refers to a sense of self-esteem and self-worth and a sense of self-sufficiency and efficiency in life.[21] Many studies have investigated the effectiveness of self-efficacy and achievement motivation in group with regard to the cognitive component. Moreover, many studies have examined the effects of Martin's educational program in enhancing motivation and enthusiasm.[22] Given to the pervious findings and the need to address the issues related to underachieving gifted students, the present study investigated the effects of Martin's educational program in academic engagement (behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and agency) of underachieving gifted students.

  Materials and Methods Top

This was a quasi-experimental study with a pre-/post-treatment/control group design. The statistical population of the study included all female students who were identified as gifted students in the 7-grade gifted schools (there were two 7-grade gifted schools in the city of Isfahan, Iran, at the time of our study). The independent and the dependent variables were Martin's educational program and academic engagement, respectively. The experimental group (underachieving gifted students who were in the seventh grade) received the education. All participants were attended in the pre/posttest. Underachieving students were selected by purposeful sampling. According to previous studies, underachieving is a difference between the intelligence potential and academic performance. The information about the underachieving students was obtained from the teachers. Three teachers (a math teacher, a Farsi teacher, and a science teacher) were asked to rate their gifted students' educational performance on a 3-point scale: perfect, as expected, and less than expected. Finally, students who were rated by the teachers as “less than expected” were selected and invited to participate in a series of workshops that were held by a psychology team at the Shenakht Counseling Center (the purpose of the study was not expressed). Volunteer students participated in the study. The exclusion criteria were as follows: absence more than one session, any personal and familial problem that interferes with the intervention, reluctant to participate in the study, and the lack of parents' consent. Finally, 30 students were selected and randomly divided into the experimental group (n = 15) and the control group (n = 15). Data were analyzed using MANCOVA.

The students' academic engagement questionnaire (behavioral engagement, emotional engagement, cognitive engagement, and agency engagement) developed by Reeve and Tseng were used to measure academic engagement. Students must read each item and then rate his/her current status on a 5-point Likert scale from 1 (never at all) to 5 (always). The questionnaire measures the four dimensions of academic engagement. The dimension includes agency engagement (5 items), behavioral engagement (5 items), emotional engagement (4 items), and cognitive engagement (8 items).[23] In a study reported a satisfaction psychometric properties, and the factor structure of the questionnaire was confirmed. Furthermore, the reliability of its subscales was as follows: agency engagement (0.82), behavioral engagement (0.94), emotional engagement (0.78), and cognitive engagement (0.80).[24] In a study in Iran, the validity of the scale was confirmed, and the reliability of agency engagement, behavioral engagement, emotional engagement, and cognitive engagement were 0.79, 0.81, 0.73, and 0.87, respectively.[24]

The experimental group received 10, 1-h sessions of Martin's educational program, whereas the control group received no intervention. All participants completed the measure at pre/post-test. The summary of Martin's educational program training [10] is presented in [Table 1].
Table 1: Martin's cognitive-behavioral session summary

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  Results Top

The results show that Martin's program is an effective intervention for academic engagement and its dimensions in [Table 2] (agency, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional engagements).
Table 2: The results of MANCOVA for the effects of Martin's educational program on academic engagement and its dimensions (agency, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional engagements)

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  Discussion Top

The results showed that Martin's educational program[10] is an effective intervention for enhancing the academic engagement and its dimensions (agency, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional engagements) in underachieving gifted students. These findings are consistent with the results of Martin,[10] Adelodun,[9] Taghinejad,[7] and Yu et al.[20] According to Martin's cognitive-behavioral theory, which is known as “the Motivation and Engagement Wheel,” enhancing academic engagement in underachieving students could be explained through the four dimensions of the program: adaptive cognitive, maladaptive cognitive, adaptive behavioral, and maladaptive behavioral dimensions. The program could enhance the self-efficacy in the adaptive cognitive dimension for valuing courses and generally a mastery orientation; that is, enhancing motivation for why to go to school. In the maladaptive cognitive dimension, Martin's program led to reduced anxiety and worry as well as reduced failure avoidance and uncertain control over school schedules. Furthermore, in the adaptive behavioral dimension of persistence, planning, and task management, the student's cognitive and metacognitive skills were significantly improved based on the techniques which were trained in the sessions. Finally, students showed a significant decrease in the maladaptive behavioral dimension, disengagement in academic activities, and self-handicapping. Moreover, academic engagement is a multidimensional construct and Martin's program could create and enhance an agency and control over academic issues by addressing the domains that are the weakness of underachieving students.

One of the academic engagement dimensions is behavioral engagement. Behavioral engagement includes pursuing academic goals, participating in learning, and doing homework. In explaining these findings, it can be concluded that Martin's program has been able to increase the persistence and effort, participating in classroom activities, answering questions, and engaging in classroom discussions.

Emotional engagement is another dimension of academic engagement. Emotional engagement is the student's emotional reactions in class, such as interest, happiness, hope, vitality, fatigue, and sadness. Martin's program, due to its multidimensional nature, provided an internal interest for assignments, energy and vitality to attend school, and doing homework in underachieving students. Therefore, it enhanced a positive emotion about school and classroom in this group of students.

Cognitive engagement is another important factor in academic engagement, which includes cognitive and metacognitive strategies for studying and learning. In the program's adaptive cognitive and behavioral dimensions, some strategies for learning are taught to students, including summarizing, categorizing, prereading, deep study, developing questions, memorizing, planning, time management, doing assignments, and preparation for examinations. Acquiring these skills (cognitive and metacognitive skills) enhances academic performance. Pentrich and DeGrout showed that students with cognitive and metacognitive skills have better academic performance than other students.[25]

The last academic engagement is the agency. Reeve and Tseng defined agency engagement as a productive involvement of students in the process of learning and teaching. In this kind of engagement, the student tries actively and purposefully to learn, due to the sense of agency, self-efficacy, and getting control over academic issues. In the classroom, for example, he/she expresses his/her own interests and priorities, participate in activities, asks questions, and actively solves the problems in the class. Therefore, it can be said that Martin's program is a systematic, comprehensive, and multidimensional program which, in turn, leads underachieving gifted students to eventually achieve a sense of agency and mastery in the academic settings.

  Conclusion Top

According to the results of the present study, it is suggested that Martin's program be presented during on-the-job courses for teachers in the gifted schools. Furthermore, the program could be used for school counselors, parents training sessions as well as teachers in council sessions, since most of these students are labeled as students with learning disorders or discouraging by teachers as well as counselors which may lead them to a bad academic future. By informing schools about the characteristics of underachieving gifted students, we can help these students and improve their academic achievement.

There are some limitations in this study. First, the study is limited to the female underachieving gifted students of Isfahan, therefore, caution should be considered in generalizing from the findings. Second, this study is limited to the academic engagement of 7-grade underachieving gifted students; therefore, it is possible that many factors, other than motivation and academic engagement, cause problems for underachieving gifted students and future studies could consider those factors.


We appreciate the cooperation of all staff of Shenakht Psychology and Counseling Service Center. This study is supported by the gifted high school officials under the confirmation letter 386, 2019/12/31.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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