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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Education

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Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

For decades, education focused on developing students' academic intelligence but not their emotional intelligence. Since the 1990s, however, educators and researchers have begun to realize that developing students' emotional intelligence may be just as important.

Emotional Intelligence in Education

Remember those mornings when you fought with your parents getting out of the car, then found yourself trying to take your government test later that day, but you were unable to concentrate? What you experienced was driven by your emotional intelligence. Studies in human behavior first coined this term in the late 1990s. It addresses two aspects of our psyche. First, it includes our ability to understand, and manage our emotions. Second, it includes our ability to understand, and in turn influence, the emotions in other people. Today, many professionals and scholars are making an argument that we need to teach emotional intelligence on the same level of importance as we teach the ABCs.

Emotional Intelligence & the Class

There is a strong correlation between students' emotional intelligence and their classroom behavior. Students with low emotional intelligence may struggle to focus and have relationships with their peers or may even show aggression. Students with lower emotional intelligence tend to struggle to communicate their feelings with their peers, and this can result in struggling to form friendships with classmates or even relationships with adults. Aggression is a common issue with students with low emotional intelligence, because they don't have the skills they need to communicate or manage their emotions appropriately. These behavior problems typically surface in preschool and early elementary school and increase in seriousness from that point on.

Some expect children to learn aspects of emotional intelligence implicitly from family dynamics and by participating in school, church, and community activities. These aspects, or skills, include self-expression of emotions, conflict resolution, and empathy. Self-expression is a person's ability to communicate how he or she feels in any given situation. Conflict resolution refers to our ability to discuss our issues with another person calmly and work together to resolve the issue. Empathy refers to our ability to understand the emotions of those around us.

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