Of course emotional intelligence matters
by Sonia Sodha
Today the RSA hosted an event on emotional intelligence: does it affect learning and educational success? The debate centred around new research published by Cambridge Assessment that shows that some aspects of ‘emotional intelligence’ – particularly motivation and ability to self-regulate behaviour – are associated with better academic progress between 14 and 16.
To some extent, the research confirms what is intuitive: social and emotional competencies like motivation, empathy, understanding and managing feelings, being able to get along with others and self-understanding are the foundational skills children and young people need to realise the benefits of learning in the classroom, as well as enjoying a broader range of positive outcomes.
This has been a busy policy agenda in the last five years or so, with the development of the SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) programme for schools. But our discussion focused on how this can’t be the end of the story. Schools need to be better supported in fostering emotional intelligence – for example through counsellors working with schools and by making more space for this in teacher training.
We also need to think more about how we measure progress in social and emotional competencies – and how we hold schools accountable for them. This is a controversial area but in today’s high-stakes climate, until we find a way to measure them they are never going to be accorded the same status as more ‘academic’ outcome measures such as SATs.