We have all been through a lot in the past two years. The pandemic, social unrest, and the financial impact of the pandemic have left people stressed, overburdened, and, in some cases, feeling lost. For students, these changes have been coupled with new course modalities that have led to procedural complexities hindering the learning process. The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) is vital as a tool for Higher Education professionals to use to help students through these dynamic changes.
There is a lot of work that has looked at the value of EI for students’ performance (da Costa, Pinto, Martins & Vieira, 2021; Goh & Kim, 2021, Zhoc, et al. 2020) and there is even work looking at the emotional intelligence of staff in higher educational institutions (Kjellander, 2021), but what can emotional intelligence do to help faculty better relate to and guide student through our current circumstance?
Let us first start with a definition of EI.
We can define EI as “the ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion and regulate emotion in the self and others” (Mayer et al. 2000, p.82). Using this as a definition, EI explores both the self and others in trying to understand and regulate emotions that may be occurring. Focusing on this can help faculty and students as a means of making conversation and interactions more productive. To elaborate on this, let us consider that three benefits of EI in the classroom setting that can help all of us as we return to the new normal in the academic setting.
The benefits of EI in the current classroom setting:
- Reduce Your Own Stress.
Be mindful and kind to yourself. There is evidence that links emotional intelligence and the psychological health of instructors (Vesley, Saklofske, and Leschied, 2013). Even when we are not in turbulent times, understanding unpleasant emotions and reactions that cause stress can give us a means of altering behavior to reduce our stress (Hamilton, 2017). Your students are not the only ones that have gone through a lot in the last couple of years. The practice of self-care can make you better able to handle to emotions and frustrating situations that will continue to arise in the classroom.
- Demonstrate Empathy
The last two years have shown us that we are all interconnected, but although we may be weathering the same storm, we are not all in the same type of boat. There have been a lot of unforeseen and difficult consequences of events that have impacted people in different ways. To aid in the learning process, as teachers, we need to create inclusive environments to aid learning and engagement for all. We need to be empathetic of what our students have experienced and how they are trying to manage through this difficult time of financial uncertainty and social movements.
- Enhance Communication
Our job is to communicate ideas to our students. Part of that process is ensuring that how we deliver and what we deliver is reaching our targeted audience. Being more socially aware of those around you, their experiences, and their perspectives can help you improve your ability to reach them. If you are teaching in a new format, are you sure you are still communicating the message that you want? How are you ensuring that your messages are being heard? You want to find ways to ensure that you are reaching all your students.
Emotional Intelligence is not a cure-all. It is, however, a tool that – if provided to faculty in Higher higher Education education as training – could help ease our stress, enhance communication, and help each of us create more effective learning environments.
For a personal evaluation of your own emotional intelligence and more information about the concept, there are a variety of resources listed below.
da Costa, M. G., Pinto, L. H., Martins, H., & Vieira, D. A. (2021). Developing psychological capital and emotional intelligence in higher education: A field experiment with economics and management students. The International Journal of Management Education, 19(3), 100516.
Goh, E., & Kim, H. J. (2021). Emotional intelligence as a predictor of academic performance in hospitality higher education. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 33(2), 140-146.
Hamilton, D. (2017). Examining Perceptions of Online Faculty Regarding the Value of Emotional Intelligence in Online Classrooms. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 20(1), n1.
Kjellander, M. A. (2021). Predictive Correlational Study on the Effects of Emotional Intelligence on Information Technology Support Staff in a Higher Education Environment (Doctoral dissertation, Saint Leo University).
Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., Caruso, D. R., & Sternberg, R. J. (2000). Models of emotional intelligence. JD Mayer.
Vesley, A., Saklofske, D. & Leschied, D. (2013). Teachers—the vital resource: The contribution of emotional intelligence to teacher efficacy and well-being. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 28(1). 71-89. Yuksel, M. & Geban, O. (2014). The relationship between emotional intelligence levels and academic achievement. International Online Journal of Academic Achievement, 6(1), 165-182.
Vesely, A. K., Saklofske, D. H., & Nordstokke, D. W. (2014). EI training and pre-service teacher wellbeing. Personality and Individual Differences, 65, 81-85.Zhoc, K. C., King, R. B., Chung, T. S., & Chen, J. (2020). Emotionally intelligent students are more engaged and successful: examining the role of emotional intelligence in higher education. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 35(4), 839-863.
Zhoc, K. C., King, R. B., Chung, T. S., & Chen, J. (2020). Emotionally intelligent students are more engaged and successful: examining the role of emotional intelligence in higher education. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 35(4), 839-863.