When judging how much heat to apply, remember that while the water temperature cannot rise above 212F, the pot bottom can be higher, and more heat can be transferred, as it is on a high rolling boil where the additional heat is converting more water to vapor. Pasta, for instance. So long as the water is at a minimal boil, it's cooking as fast as it can at 212F. Any additional heat make cause more roiling and have the effect of self-stirring, but it's more likely to boil over.
What's happening with pasta is that the stuff released from the pasta while cooking increases the surface tension of the water and allows bubbles to last longer, rather than quickly break at the surface. So it becomes a foaming boil and tends to boil over. Best approach is to watch and adjust the heat to a low boil. Keep the pot covered to get the water to boil, but leave the cover off while cooking. Check before you add oil that the pasta police aren't watching, else you will be chastised for making your pasta to slippery for sauce to stick to it.
In some boiling situations, there are little things, variously called "milk minder," "boil watcher," etc. You can try the technique by placing a saucer upside down in the bottom of the pot. The idea is that it keeps the vapor that's formed under the saucer until it forms a big enough bubble to flop out, and that big bubble breaks readily on the surface.
"Kitchen duty is awarded only to those of manifest excellence..." - The Master, Dogen