Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Teaching

Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Teaching

The idea of Emotional Intelligence is a growing and developing one that is applicable across EVERY human activity and for all ages from the cradle to the grave.

For instance, EI is increasingly becoming very important within the Care and Medical Sectors to engage with both the patient/client and the Carer/Doctor/Practitioner.  Having due regard for and with someone else’s emotions is something we should all aspire to AND demand.

So too Emotional Intelligence within a learning context, whether it be within the confines of schools, colleges or Universities, is both crucial to the learning experience but also in the character formation of the individuals and group dynamic structures.

Also, EI within the Uniformed and Armed Services should be as integrated as it can be and where it is, it will be found to greatly assist in the interactions between people and groups.

These are just snippets, just brief glimpses of different sectors, just pointers, indicators even of what is and should or could be, within the human psyche and our understanding of ourselves and recognition of our communications and interactions.

Emotional Intelligence was first discussed back in the 1950’s and 1960’s and its assessment/measurement (Emotional Quotient (EQ)) developed in the 1970s and 80s but then it was popularised by Daniel Goleman in the mid-1990s in his worldwide best seller “Emotional Intelligence”.

Since this publication there has been a spawn of research and publications all of which point in the same direction ~ that Emotional Intelligence (EI), its awareness and its wisdom, are beneficial for individuals across every human interaction and of which it also forms an effective foundation for education and training and for people-to-people skill set acuities.

EI is one of many concepts and models originating in psychology that is increasingly becoming incorporated into teaching, education and development.  Goleman defines EI as ‘the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those feelings in and of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing well the emotions in ourselves and in our relationships.’

The theories and practises of EI have been applied and adopted extensively within small, medium and large businesses and enterprises and even within the international business world and in some of the largest companies.  It is reported to be very popular within 75% of America’s Fortune 500 for instance.  But it has also become a focus of attention within education as a result of research that seems to show that generations of our young are becoming less emotionally aware or savvy. Changes within family structures, reduced roles of parents in and with parenting skills and peer education, increased mobility and addiction to technology, all of which are seen as contributing factors which leads to the stark necessity that there is a great and increasing need to develop EI at and within all levels of education and across the whole curriculum;

  • EI Theory
  • EI and Teaching
  • Teaching techniques
  • The Language of EI
  • Gender differences
  • Classroom activities
  • Conclusion

EI Theory
EI theory provides convincing argument that conventional measurements of intelligence ignore behaviour and character and that success in education or within the business world requires more than just academic ability.  It is vital that there is also at least an equivalence of personal and social skill sets.

EI might be seen as a complement to our complex multiple intelligence structures, while there are very strong cross over links between EI and behavioural models and theories such as Transactional Analysis, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), Mindfulness and the Maslow Hierarchy of Human Needs.

Daniel Goleman identifies five ‘domains’ of EI:

  • Self-awareness – Recognising and being able to name our feelings.
  • Motivation – The ability to keep going despite failures.
  • Self-regulation – The way we handle our emotions to avoid negative effects.
  • Empathy - The ability to read the emotions of others.
  • Adeptness - Being sensitive to the feelings of others and handling them appropriately to build positive relationships.

We at Lambda Mi identify five slightly different (but related) domains of EI;

  • Self-awareness, regulation and management
  • Relationship-awareness, regulation and management
  • Determination and motivation
  • Communication
  • Social Skills ~ empathy, sympathy and sensitivity

EI and Teaching
Because EI is about understanding and assessing behavioural modalities and patterns, it is also relevant to the development of both the individual and the organisation.

Within education, it should be applied to the institution as a whole, for teachers and the students through promoting academic success while addressing personal and social issues, reducing anxiety and dealing with negative feelings during the learning process.

At the same time, patterns for future lives can be established while social skills are being developed and that are in demand by employers.

At an institutional level, the emphasis should be on creating an environment to raising a students’ Emotional Intelligence and awareness and starting the processes of developing EI wisdoms.  So much of this involves the creating of a sense of individuality, of uniqueness and specialness, of identity, safety and value.  In this way, institutions and teachers should be responsible for fostering:

  • Attachment ~ having a sense of belonging, to the school or university.
  • Reassurance ~ by demonstrating that others too experience difficulties.
  • Bonding ~ through facilitating the formation of firm and loyal friendships.
  • Introduction ~ of Informing students what is possible and available.
  • Training ~ education in study skills, time management and stress reduction.
  • Holistic ~ By balancing academic learning with physical and social activities.

In the classroom, all the above are apposite and are the responsibility of the teacher, but the attention and focus to EI asks the additional considerations of emotional literacy (the ability to express emotions) and the necessity for good organic group actions and student interaction.

In the days of learning by rote and the teacher-centre classroom, inter-relationships among group members were not seen as vital, but in communicative teaching, where pairs and group-work are the norm, support and co-operation between the learners is essential.

Teenage learners in particular are often reluctant to co-operate fully, often as a result of repressed fear, anxiety and anger rather than linguistic inability, and are unlikely to learn much in a student-centred classroom.  The teacher then needs to focus on areas of language used to express emotions, and on classroom techniques that will reduce tension and produce better group dynamics.

Teaching techniques
EI is developed through activities that promote the sharing of ideas and communication in the classroom.

Techniques that are already part of the teacher’s repertoire, of confidence-building, of team or group activities should all be emphasised:

  • A variety of activities maintaining interest and allowing for different approaches to learning and individual learning styles to be had.
  • Ice breakers, warmers and mingle activities help students to get to know each other and promote interest in lessons if they are related to the topic being taught.
  • Brainstorming and discussion sessions encouraging the sharing of knowledge and opinions.
  • For some learners, it is easier to reveal themselves through a fictitious role-play. However, role-plays and simulations should only be carefully set up and should relate to the real world. Guided fantasy and drama techniques are useful tools in guiding learners into their roles.
  • Group work encouraging cooperation.  Group composition should be changed often since there is a tendency for high EI students to work together, but EI can be also learned by example through others.  Tasks should be designed so that all members have to contribute and which have the same outcomes. Collaborative reading and writing activities, as well as group speaking activities, may be utilised.
  • Project work.  Students are often competitive.  Group completion of assessed and un-assessed projects also encourages cooperation.
  • Giving feedback on performances and making clear what is expected should always be the norm.  Feedback should be specific, objective and focused on certain aspects of performance that the student is able to change.
  • Getting feedback on tasks and how students felt during the task should always be included.
  • Continuous assessment allows positive aspects of a student’s performance to be assessed and rewarded including their contribution to the group.

The Language of EI

The most difficult task for any teacher in teaching the language of emotions is in persuading the learners to vocalise and discuss their feelings directly, since we all have a tendency to over-complicate how we feel and/or blame another person.

A frightened passenger in a car is more likely to say ‘You’re driving a bit too fast, aren’t you?’ (meaning please slow down) or ‘You’re driving like a maniac’ (blaming the driver) rather than ‘I’m scared’.   The teacher of emotional aspects and terms however, has the advantage of being able to encourage learners to use the simple language of emotions before they have the range of language to complicate matters.

The language itself consists mainly of a few main verbs, a variety of adjectives, and the use of modals, but is best seen in terms of functions:

Function Language
Label feelings I feel / I am angry / impatient / bitter / frightened
Take responsibility for feelings I feel jealous / hurt / left out
Empathise I understand / accept / realise
Suggest I / you could / might
State wants and needs I / you need / would like / want to
Be positive I’d feel better if

There is also certain language to be avoided, mainly to do with the functions of giving commands and strong advice (I/you should), obligation (I/you must) and blaming (you’re insensitive, you’re making me jealous).

Classroom activities
Language practice materials designed for the global market are often criticised for being too general, not relevant to individual learning groups and seemingly unnatural.

Teachers are encouraged to adapt materials to suit local needs.

EI development requires that teachers also adapt materials to enable learners to find out about each other’s interests, habits, preferences and characters, both to stimulate discussion and also to strengthen intra-group relationships.

Some standard activities already encourage learners to reveal something about themselves (If I found a wallet in the street I’d …), but many are impersonal or ‘closed’, in that follow-up questions are not required, or tend to produce unnatural responses.

Good examples are the kind of questions often used to practise frequency adverbs.

Questions such as ‘How often do you watch television, play football with your friends, play computer games or, go shopping?’ are unlikely to produce responses which are revealing, unpredictable or interesting enough to follow up.

How often do you…. very often often sometimes rarely never
get angry
argue with your parents
make mistakes
forget things
change your mind
really enjoy yourself

The questions listed in the above table require responses that say something about the speaker and provide opportunities for further questions and for the teacher to feed in some extra useful language.

In this case, students fill in the table before asking and answering questions, allowing time to think of ‘real’ responses and recall actual incidents from their own lives.

‘Personalised grammar’ promotes meaningful interaction.

Developing EI and good communicative language teaching should go hand in hand.  However the group dynamics necessary for meaningful interaction in the classroom do not occur automatically, but need to be manufactured and fostered through techniques that build confidence, create positive classroom atmospheres and encourage co-operation.

Personalised language practice is affective in that it encourages learners to talk about themselves and their feelings while making use of the language relevant, interesting and therefore memorable.

Further reading
Antidote (an organisation devoted to emotional literacy) http://www.antidote.org.uk/
Goleman, D. Emotional Intelligence. Bantam 1995
Goleman, D. Working with Emotional Intelligence. Bantam 2000
Lynn, A. The Emotional Intelligence Activity Book. AMACOM 2001
Schilling, D. 50 Activities for Teaching Emotional Intelligence. Innerchoice 1999

Written by Michael Boase, CEO and Consultant Educator Developer, Lambda Mi Education and Development, UK. www.lambda-mi.com

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