Teaching Emotional Intelligence to Students

September 29, 2016 Christopher Ruel

What is emotional intelligence and how does it impact learning? How can we better equip students to regulate their emotions in and out of the classroom? Studies have demonstrated that students who have diminished emotional intelligence can increase their EI through intervention programs designed to meet their needs, thus increasing academic persistence and success. Learn more below in this excerpt from the whitepaper “Emotional Intelligence Learning” by Korrel Kanoy.

Emotional intelligence involves a set of skills that can be learned and developed. The most widely researched and validated models of emotional intelligence (EI) incorporate non-cognitive skills sad student.jpgsuch as:

  • recognizing and effectively managing one’s emotions;
  • leveraging emotions to solve real-world problems;
  • communicating effectively in emotionally-charged situations;
  • making good decisions;
  • building effective relationships; and
  • managing stress.

Research verifies that emotional intelligence can be taught to students and that increased emotional intelligence predicts better outcomes. For example, Qualter and colleagues (2009) found that students who showed an increase in EI as a result of an intervention program were more likely to persist with their studies than those not participating.

Schutte and Malouf (2002) taught emotional intelligence skills to students in a college transition course and compared them to students who complete a college transition course not focused on EI. Results were reported in terms of improvement in EI skills and retention:

  1. The students in the EI-focused sessions, although slightly lower in overall EI compared to the comparison group at the beginning of the semester (126.88 to 130.79), exceeded their counterparts’ EI by the end of the semester (134.05 to 131.35), evidencing over a 7 point gain compared with about a .5 point in the comparison group, thus demonstrating that merely experiencing college life is not enough to improve EI skills.
  2. Over 97% of the students in EI-focused sessions were retained at the end of the year compared with 86% of the students in the non-EI sessions, a statistically significant difference.

Research has shown that as little as a half-day training program on EI, when combined with an individual coaching session for the student, was associated with an improvement in EI skills (Carrick, 2010). K.B.T. Chang demonstrated the effectiveness of infusing EI into an existing course, The Psychology of Adjustment (Chang, 2006). During the semester long course, students taking the EI- infused section studied topics related to emotional intelligence and completed an EI focused self-improvement project, such as improving assertiveness or self-regard. Students in the EI-infused class compared to those in the regular section can benefit from EI instruction as shown by an increase in EI skills when measured before and after EI instruction.

Special populations of students can experience benefits from EI instruction as well. Martinez and colleagues (2014) found that: “Students on probation who participated in emotional intelligence skill development workshops had a retention rate 20% higher than those who did not.” And Manring (2012) fostered students’ emotional intelligence through service learning, demonstrating that there are multiple ways—and using existing programs—to develop students’ emotional intelligence.

To download the full whitepaper on Emotional Intelligence Learning click here. Author Korrel Kanoy, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus, William Peace University, and Managing Partner, Developmental Associates. She is also the co-author of The Student EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Academic and Personal Success.

Image credit: Alejandro Rivera/iStockphoto


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