Emotional intelligence enters the classroom

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Over the last nine years, U.K.-based author Alan Mortiboys has been developing a canon of exercises to help teachers better understand their own emotions on the job and, just as importantly, the emotions of their students. Mortiboys’ seminal 2005 work, “Teaching with Emotional Intelligence,” is intended for college level instructors. It’s being released this week with additional material devoted to online learning situations.

“Emotional intelligence” is a term that was popularized by Daniel Goleman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ.” Is that what started you off in your work?

Yes, that’s how I first came to the term. But my thinking on the subject started back when I did a lot of teacher observations. Often, I would see people who appeared to know everything about their subject, and had a whole range of technical skills, but there was something missing. They weren’t paying attention to the emotional dimension of teaching. For me, emotions were so important to learning — and the lecturer had a huge role to play in influencing feelings in the learner.

What’s the most common mistake teachers make when it comes to setting an emotional tone?

It’s small but important. They don’t take the opportunity to address individuals by name, so they don’t acknowledge the individual learner. Second, they don’t address the potential for fear in a learning situation. Classrooms can produce a lot of anxiety. Just taking the time to be clear about the structure and expectations can alleviate much of that.


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