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Anne Jakins

Emotional Intelligence

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Emotional Intelligence means recognising our feelings and managing them effectively while having an increased awareness of motivation, empathy and social skills. The Department of Education and Science has given EI training to 2,000 teachers across the country and considers it a valuable tool in schools.

At its best EI, it is claimed, is a far better predictor than IQ of future success or failure in life. Students who are taught to control and monitor anti-social urges perform better. Teachers emotionaly tuned into their students get better results.

Apparently Chris Woodhead is not a fan - considers 'a waste of time'. What do you think?

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I have mixed feelings about it. Like lots of things in education, I think it's a mixture of common sense expressed in educational jargon, mixed with some scientific theory which encourages the public to believe that "properly" trained teachers can somehow miraculously undo the harm caused by present day society

Naturally, it would be a better world if everyone understood and developed control over their less desirable emotions such as anger and greed. Surely, that's a common sense accepted part of the human condition and it shouldn't need a new scientific theory to tell us so. And if parents do this from birth with awareness and sensitivity, then teachers can develop it further and you generally end up with a decent citizen.

However, I'm not sure that it works on children who arrive at school at 4/5 years old from families where emotions are out of control and general common sense/intelligent child rearing is not going on and never will. I have to say that in all honesty, the few hours a day these children spend at school is unlikely to have a major permanent effect on them unless they break away from their family background. However, I suppose some better understanding by teachers about how emotions develop and can be used positively won't do any harm and may do some good. Whether it will eventually help to solve the ills of current society is another matter. I hope it can, but I'm not optomistic.

It just amazes me that thinking people have to have these things presented to them as scientific discoveries, neatly packaged in sets of books or units of work, before it occurs to them that it is a good thing to develop positive emotions in children and discourage negative ones, and to be responsive to others' feelings. My 84 year old Yorkshire mother managed to instill these things into me without the need of a textbook or scientific theory. But I guess whatever helps people to improve their lives, is worth a try, albeit it an expensive one!

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I attended a fascinating conference in Örnsköldsvik in Sweden a few years ago, where the theme was Learning Styles. The guru of learning styles, Dr Rita Dunn attended the whole conference and addressed it a couple of times.

One of the things which impressed me about Dr Dunn's work was a prodigious experiental base for her conclusions. I remember, for example, her relating her team's work on "attention-deficient" kids, where she refused even to contemplate a study until she had 1500 subjects who had all had CAT scans, so that she could be fairly sure that there were common features in the subjects' brains. At the time in Sweden, an 'acceptable' diagnosis was 7 'yes' answers out of 10 to questions like "does the child seem to be excitable at any time?"

One of the questions from the floor was about Dr Howard Gardner's notions of the 7 intelligences (at least it was 7 at the time), and how these related to learning styles. Dr Dunn's answer was that 7 intelligences were only theory - according to Dr Gardner. He saw his job as coming up with the hypotheses - it was then someone else's job to actual test these to see if they were valid.

My own feeling is that these intelligences are a little like astrology! On the one hand, it's very likely that any attempt to 'prove' anything from experimental, empirical evidence is going to fail. On the other hand, if you look at the intelligences as the distillation of our culture's 'commonsense', made into something that sounds like a scientific theory, then you're probably on the right track. In other words, the idea of emotional intelligence is a useful metaphor for people to use in a society where we can't rely on the informal networks of handed-on knowledge which used to be available.

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David

This is exactly what I have been telling our dept hierarchy here for ages, but they absolutely refuse to acknowledge that Gardner's theories are just that - unproven theories. They claim that they are based on new and proven scientific knowledge of the brain, and that his theories are inviolable. They can't actually give you chapter and verse, but it's enough to be able to con classroom teachers who haven't the time or energy to investigate it themselves and are often intimidated by their "superiors". I like the sound of your Swedish doctor and am going to quote her thinking - but then, Swedes have generally been known for their thorough and down to earth approach to things.

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Sorry, I just rer-ead your post and realised Dr Dunn is in fact not Swedish - where does she come from?

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Dr Rita Dunn has been working out of St John's University in New York for years now. The website you need is: http://www.learningstyles.net/

Dr Dunn's team's conclusion about the predominant learning styles of children with attention-deficiency' problems is that their circadian rhythms are such that they tend to come 'on-line' at about 4.00 pm; and they need subdued lighting and a very calm classroom environment, preferably with soft chairs. In other words, they don't stand a chance in the standard school environment. The current practice in Sweden is to let ADHD kids sit in a cubicle on their own. They get their tasks one at a time (i.e. not 1 piece of paper with 10 questions on it, but 1 piece of paper with 1 question on it), and as they finish each one, the teacher puts it on the wall, out of sight.

At the conference, Dr Dunn said something about learning styles which I found really significant. Her point was that we're all born with a tendency to one learning style or another. The point of education, however, is to have us become more proficient with the learning styles which *don't* come naturally to us. Thus, the person who learns from words needs to start learning from pictures, and the person who needs music on to learn needs to learn how to do it without the music.

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Thanks, David. That's really useful. I've sent you a personal email question about behaviour management in Sweden, but you might like to put your answer on this site as well.

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I think that EI requires a lot of self-control and maturity. Two qualities that most pupils in Secondary education gravely lack, not only because they are not given the tools to acquire them but also because physiologically they are not equipped with such tools. A research recently showed that the reason why teenagers find it difficult to related to others is that their brain connections are in the making, so that social interaction is rendered quasi-impossible.

Back to EI, it is also a question of common sense to say that classes with teachers using EI perform better simply because there will be less time spent in confrontation and therefore less time spent repairing the damage caused by confrontation. Therefore it is down to the adult, who possesses the tools of reasoning to put an end to the vicious cycle of anger and confrontation.

I also wanted to comment on the different styles of learning. My school did a survey of those and the results came back quite stunning. Over half of our 1200 pupils were kinaesthetic learners, about 30 % were visual learners and only a few were auditory learners. Funnily enough, in school we demand that pupils listen to teachers and rely on their auditory learning skills more often than any other skills. This is something that educators should think about.

A.B.

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