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What is Emotional Learning?

Social and Emotional Learning has emerged as a field thanks to a new understanding of science, nature, child development, and biology, based on the subjective goals of increasing the potential for success and happiness. Social and emotional learning increase a child's emotional intelligence quotient, known colloquially as people-smarts, providing children with an opportunity to excel at more than just academics. Teachers and parents must intentionally teach literacy and academic skills, and according to social and emotional learning theorists, they should be just as intentional about providing instruction in social and emotional skills.

For nearly a hundred years, IQ was the standard by which we measured the relative intelligence of people. A paradigm shift occurred when studies in the 1980s by Howard Gardner showed that EQ is a better predictor of success than IQ. The responsible handling of emotions leads to fewer incidences of acting out and bad behavior and lowers incidences of violence, depression, and low motivation. It creates better perception of emotion in faces and pictures, including in one's own image. When children don't have these skills, they often exhibit challenging or confrontational behavior or become quiet and withdrawn.

Educators have a duty to teach students to manage their emotions, resolve conflicts peacefully, and be responsible for their actions. Effective teaching of emotional intelligence requires, first and foremost, good teacher and parent role models. By creating an environment of emotional acceptance and encouraging children to work through their emotions in a positive way, children will learn that certain behaviors are allowed and others are not. It's also important to look for teachable moments in your everyday life. For example, if a child hits another child, discipline must be accompanied by teaching, for example, telling children that hitting is not okay and to get an adult if they need help resolving a dispute. However, there are two reasons this is not the most effective way to teach social behavior. First, the incident has already occurred, and both children are upset and will not be receptive to learning. Second, the child might find the teacher's attention reinforcing and hit children just to get the teacher's attention again. Instead, social skills should be taught like any other part of the curriculum, with lessons as part of the daily schedule.

Parents, how can you help your children improve their emotional intelligence? According to specialists, emotional learning starts at home at an early age. By being attentive to your young child's emotional needs, you can find opportunities to teach emotional learning in your day-to-day life. An easy way to begin is by discussing moods and asking questions like "What makes you angry?" It's important to teach children that emotions are normal, but that they should be able to regulate them.

Educators, want some tips on providing social and emotional education to your students? There are several emotional education programs for teachers, including "The Resolving Conflicts Creatively Program". Integrating these programs into the daily curriculum and lesson plans will help your students understand how to behave with their peers. Your students will realize that you value their emotional maturity as much as their academic success. You should encourage your students to keep a journal about their feelings. Self-awareness and self-reflection is a large part of emotional maturity. Students can be taught strategies to remain calm and in a positive mood.

Teaching children how to handle their emotions is an important part of learning. Good parents and teachers have a duty to provide instruction in dealing with emotions constructively.

For More On Emotional Learning

  1. 7 lessons in Emotional Intelligence - Home of the 7EQ News, a FREE e-zine. Series of articles for a large audience on Emotional Intelligence (Dutch, French & English)
  2. Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations - Cutting edge research and information related to emotional intelligence in the workplace. Visitors can download the latest research findings, learn of training opportunities, and access reference materials.
  3. Ei (UK) Limited: Emotional Intelligence Training Programmes - Committed to increasing emotional intelligence in homes, families, workplaces and schools.
  4. Emotional Literacy Education - How to make the world a better place through emotional literacy education and self-knowledge.
  5. The EQ Institute - Practical information on emotional intelligence and its importance to society; including reports on the progress of the EQI Montessori primary school, the first school in the world designed specifically to teach Emotional Intelligence to children.
  6. LouElla Jackson- DiSC distributor (Carlson Learning) offering assessment tools that help develop emotional intelligence.
  7. National Centre for Early Development and Learning- Research at the National Center for Early Development & Learning (NCEDL), focuses on enhancing the cognitive, social and emotional development of children from birth through age eight.
  8. The Institute for Emotionally Intelligent Learning- Presents programs on assessing and promoting emotional health, humor in the workplace and violence prevention.
  9. Special Needs Education- Dedicated to providing a service that encompasses the educational, physical, cognitive and emotional needs of students with learning problems.

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