Students are emotionally driven beings. Thanks to ongoing psychological research, we now know a lot about how our emotions work. Emotionally intelligent teaching involves you using this insight in intelligent ways to improve the impact that you have on your students.
Emotionally Intelligent Teaching – Tip 1
One of the most potent findings regarding emotional intelligence is the presence of mirror neurons1 in our brain. Mirror neurons activate in our brain when we interact with another person. They enable us to feel what the other person feels, which explains why the emotions of others are often contagious.
But why is this important?
Students are likely to catch the emotions you are feeling. Sadly, research2 shows that most students are ambivalent to school. However, they are far more likely to do well when they are interested and passionate about what they are learning.
Therefore, it is not surprising that students are more likely to do well when their teachers are passionate about what they are teaching, about being a teacher and about helping their students learn3 .
Teachers need to be engaged in the passion of teaching and learning.
You can help students do better at school simply by being passionate about the work you do. It is one key aspect of emotionally intelligent teaching.
Emotionally Intelligent Teaching – Tip 2
Another key finding in the emotional intelligence literature centres on the importance of empathy. In short, empathy involves recognising how other people feel and then experiencing their feelings yourself. This creates a sense of a shared connection, which in turn allows you to deal with the situation (whatever it may be) together. At a broader level, empathy involves seeing the situation through another person’s eyes.
A meta-analysis of available research4 shows that students do substantially better at school when you show them empathy and warmth. Take an interest in their lives, pay attention to how they are feeling and feel with them.
Emotionally Intelligent Teaching – Tip 3
This leads into my third tip, which is to remain calm and objective when dealing with students’ misbehaviour. All too often, we let anger and disappointment control how we respond to a student’s misbehaviour. In emotional intelligence terms, this is known as an emotional hijack.
However, research reviewed by Robert Marzano5 reveals that the most effective behaviour management technique teachers can adopt is a particular mindset. This mindset has two core components:
- A heightened sense of awareness regarding what is going on in your classroom
- A capacity to stay calm and objective
The essential point is that we want students to behave well so that they can learn. Losing your cool (especially over minor misbehaviour) disrupts both teaching and learning.
Practising feeling empathy will help you to remain calm. It also helps to remember not to take things personally.
- Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. L., & Rapson, R. L. (1994). Emotional contagion. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press; di Pellegrino, G., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., & Rizzolatti, G. (1992). Understanding Motor Events: A Neurophysiological Study. Experimental Brain Research, 91, 176-180. [↩]
- Willingham, D. T. (2009). Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. [↩]
- Hattie, J. A. C., & Clinton, J. (2008). Identifying accomplished teachers: A validation study. In L. Ingvarson & J. A. C. Hattie (Eds.), Assessing teachers for professional certification: The first decade of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (pp. 313–344). Oxford, UK: Elsevier; Smith, T. W., Baker, W. K., Hattie, J. A. C., & Bond, L. (2008). A validity study of the certification system of the National Board For Professional Teaching Standards. In L. Ingvarson & J. A. C. Hattie (Eds.), Assessing teachers for professional certification: The first decade of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (pp. 345–378). Oxford, UK: Elsevier. [↩]
- Cornelius-White, J. (2007). Learner-Centered Teacher-Student Relationships Are Effective: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 113-143. [↩]
- Marzano, R. (2003). Classroom Management That Works. ASCD. [↩]