Emotional Intelligence – Educational Applications

Emotional Intelligence Basics for Teachers and Parents:

angerAnyone can become angry — that is easy.

But to become angry with the right person,

to the right degree, at the right time,

for the right purpose, and in the right way–

that is not easy.

Aristotle – The Nicomachean Ethics

©Leslie Owen Wilson all rights reserved                                                          Contact Leslie

Although Daniel Goleman sprinkles suggestions for educational implementation throughout his book, Emotional Intelligence, in the latter portion of the work he specifically defends the need for schools to address emotional intelligence. Here he says:

. . . Emotional literacy implies an expanded mandate for schools, taking up the slack for failing families in socializing children. This daunting task requires two major changes: that teachers go beyond their traditional mission and that people in the community become more involved with schools.

Whether there is a class explicitly devoted to emotional literacy may matter far less than how these lessons are taught. There is perhaps no subject where the quality of the teacher matters so much, since how a teacher handles her class is in itself a model, a de facto lesson in emotional competence–or the lack thereof. Whenever a teacher responds to one student, twenty or thirty others learn a lesson.

There is a self-selection in the kind of teacher such as these, because not everyone is suited by temperament. To begin with, teachers need to be comfortable talking about feelings, not every teacher is at ease doing so or wants to be. . . . 279 (Goleman)

Key components to pass on to children and students:

Emotional intelligence was an immediate best seller, especially as folks in the world of work seemed to struggle with interpersonal issues. As Goleman indicates repeatedly EQ is not destiny – emotional intelligence is a different way of being smart. He also insists that folks can learn to be emotionally intelligent, and that is important as many schools consider implementing Social/Emotional Learning (SEL) programs as a regular part of the curriculum.  Specifically EQ skills include –

At intrapersonal levels

  • knowing your feelings and using them to make good decisions;
  • managing your feelings well;
  • motivating yourself with zeal and persistence;
  • maintaining hope in the face of frustration,

At interpersonal levels

  • exhibiting empathy and compassion;
  • interacting smoothly; and
  • managing your relationships effectively.

Interpersonal skills in EQ include acts of compassion, kindness, and mercy; helping others; being considerate; being attuned to others’ emotions and feelings; being able to read body language and adjusting actions accordingly.  – All of these things are emotional skills that matter immensely – in marriage and families, in career and the workplace, for health and contentment. In all societies these skills are prized.

An example: The appendices of Goleman’s book (starting on page 301) are rich with possibilities which could easily be incorporated into school programs. His collections of ideas include many thoughtful suggestions, all of which could either serve as a basis for powerful, affective curricula, or for some level of infusion into traditional content areas. Here is a sample of the type of things Goleman offers readers.

From the W.T. Grant Consortium: Active ingredients of prevention programs: (Original source: Hawkins, J.D., et al (1992) Communities that care. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.)

Emotional skills:

1. Identifying and labeling feelings

2. Expressing feelings

3. Assessing the intensity of feelings

4. Managing feelings

5. Delaying gratification

6. Controlling impulses

7. Reducing stress

8. Knowing the difference

Cognitive Skills:

1. Self-talk – conducting inner dialogue

2. Reading and interpreting social cues

3. Using steps for problem solving and decision-making

Behavioral Skills:

1. Nonverbal – communicating through the body, being aware of the messages one is giving and receiving.

2. Verbal – making clear statements, responding appropriately, listening, empathetic responses, helping others, etc.

Here is a rating scale to assess emotional intelligence based on the criteria above: SEL rating scale

What can teachers do immediately to encourage these skills?

  • Model them
  • Tell stories or offer examples that include examples of positive behaviors
  • Help students to express feelings in positive or appropriate ways
  • Offer opportunities for collaborative or cooperative learning, but go over roles and expected behaviors beforehand
  • Behavioral skills (non-verbal) – Offer samples or examples of communicating through the body language and posture, being aware of the messages one is giving and receiving.
  • Verbal – Model making clear statements, responding appropriately, listening, empathetic responses, helping others, etc.

Teaching students to use their gifts.

In the context of all three intelligences–intrapersonal, interpersonal, and emotional — here are some of my personal suggestions for implementation. (Hint: If you really want to know who is smart and in what areas, ask a little kid to tell you. Kids, ages three to seven, are very good at seeing through the adult masks and mazes of cultural and social mystique, and affectation. After age seven children have a tendency to want to become adept as social animals — they learn to play the game and want to glean acceptance from adults. Unfortunately, most are socialized into losing their acute perceptive and intuitive abilities and talents for falsity detection – a shame.)

Leslie’s Suggestions

1. Simply learn to recognize and affirm those children who are smart in different ways.

2. Discuss and educate peers, parents, and community members about new and different perceptions of intelligence.

3. Find opportunities to showcase children’s multiple talents and abilities, and expand narrower definitions and criteria for “gifted and talented” programs so that they include other intelligences beyond the narrow limitations of verbal/linguistic and mathematical/logical intelligences.

4. Teach students about the multiple intelligences and other forms of intelligence, but be careful to also teach ways and techniques that aid students in using their strengths to create instructional bridges into areas of metacognitive weakness. Teach students how to explore and nurture their weaker talents through their strengths.

5. Teach students the arts of self-talk, internal dialogue, self-affirmation, reflective analysis, and the art of apology.

6. Create opportunities whereby students affirm and actively listen to one another.

7. Identify faculty and staff who have intrapersonal, interpersonal, or emotional intelligences, and allow them to become role models for both faculty and students.

8. Use role-play as a teaching technique, but be sure you know what you are doing. This is one of the most powerful teaching tools, and if not done correctly, role-playing can create more problems than it can solve. Study the technique first! Always debrief after role-plays.

9. Recognize and honor Carl Jung’s temperament attributes of introversion and extroversion. Many people mistakenly think that attributes have to do with qualities of shyness and gregariousness. This is not true! These personality attributes have to do with where and how people draw energy, and what aspects of self they are willing to reveal to others, and how one responds to external stimulus. Educate yourself about what these attributes really mean, adjust teaching techniques so that the needs of both types of children are met and adjust, and revise teaching techniques so that they are representative of both types of temperaments.

10. Emphasize the human connections, the dramas, the stories of struggle and triumph that permeate each academic discipline.

11. Give students the gift of time — grant time for active reflection, introspection and conversation–times where students are allowed to become reflective, and then have opportunities to share their introspective reflections with others.

12. Introduce unfinished stories, scenarios, and problems that deal with moral and ethical actions, and the art of thinking of the human condition in metaphoric terms. These are all very powerful ways for students to begin to think about the ancient, affective side of humanity and the evolutionary state of human emotions and interactions.

13. Organize public service experiences. Extend the walls of the school to include the community.

14. Introduce students to members of older generations and let them listen to their stories.

15. All students need to experience the joy of committing random acts of kindness and beauty–give them opportunities to do so.

16. Learn and teach the power of laughter and beauty and their connections to emotional and physical well-being and healing.

17. Teach the arts of social discourse, how to read body language, conflict resolution techniques, and stress reduction.

18. Inclusive educational, employment, and social practices offer students opportunities to develop understanding of others, as well as caring and empathetic attitudes. Support, discuss and promote such initiatives.

19. And remember to experience, practice and model all of the above yourself — “the medium is the message.”

(This discussion is from a book manuscript – Journeys: Inside out, outside in, a book manuscript — © Leslie Owen Wilson, all rights reserved.)


Childre, D.L., Teaching children to love

Damasio, A.R., Decarte’s error: Emotion, reason and the brain

Goleman, D., Emotional intelligence

Goleman, D., “On emotional intelligence,” Educational leadership, v.54, n.1, September 1996, 6-10.

Selected web resources to check out:

Edutopia on Emotional Intelligence is the missing piece

Daniel Goleman  talking on  EQ in Edutopia  – This is an older video clip with Goleman the author of EQ, but no less important!

The School of Life – A London based concern concentrating on helping others understand the concepts driving emotional intelligence and emotional wellness. They also have lots of products to trigger discussions on issues that surround emotional intelligence and its development, plus a dedicated YouTube channel that shares lots of wonderful, succinct, well done videos. This is a fabulous resource for parents, teachers, and others who want to stimulate meaningful discussions about what it means to be human.

Emotional Intelligence Information – I comprehensive array of information on EQ

From Cleverism – An EQ overview plus some good video clips on the topic