Emotional Intelligence – are we preparing students for life after education?

Emotional Intelligence – Are We Fully Preparing Our Students For Life After Education?

Emotional Intelligence

As students start a new year at school or university, many will face new situations in which their emotional intelligence will be put to the test. A new environment with different people will require a young person to successfully navigate the social and emotional cues that make up every day interactions, and for most students their level of emotional intelligence will have just as deep an impact on their future lives as their academic success.

Mayer, Salovey, Caruso and Sitarenios define emotion as ‘an organised mental response to an event that includes psychological, experiential and cognitive aspects, among others’ (2001, pp.233-234) and noted that EQ (emotional intelligence or quotient) covered a variety of tasks, such as recognising emotion in faces and understanding how these emotions are likely to change under different circumstances. Of specific importance is how emotions occur within the context of relationships, whether the emotion felt is expressed outwardly or remains an internal experience. Interestingly, research has shown that emotional expression has evolved across species, and shows consistency among all people, with any apparent differences in expression between cultures caused by different etiquette regarding the timing of expression. It is therefore a necessary skill for existence in society and one that could put an individual at a clear disadvantage if not developed fully.

Developing EQ

There is a difference of opinion over whether EQ is a purely inborn characteristic or whether it can be learned and strengthened over time. Research suggests there are four main branches of EQ that cover ‘perceiving emotions’ of other people (including body language and expressions), ‘reasoning with emotions’ to promote thinking and cognitive activity in order to divert attention to certain things over others, ‘understanding emotions’ to interpret the cause of a reaction and perceive meaning, and ‘managing emotions’ in order to respond to situations appropriately to enhance personal growth and social relations. As a result, EQ can be seen to have a direct effect on an individual’s self-control, enthusiasm, persistence and self-motivation.

Recent studies agree that EQ has a definite correlation with both academic and professional accomplishment. Kiss, Kotsis and Kun investigated the relationship between EQ and academic performance in students and found that ‘both IQ and EQ were in a significant relationship with the mean average grades’ (2014, p.30). This relationship continues on to adulthood, with research supporting the supposition that levels of professional competence are strongly associated with self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness and social skills (factors of emotional intelligence). De Haro and Castejon investigated the early stage career success of 130 graduates and found that EQ made ‘a specific contribution to the prediction of salary, after controlling for the general intelligence effect’ (2014, p.1). Additionally, the same relationship can be applied to accomplishment in other areas such as managerial effectiveness and job satisfaction. Positive performance in the workplace depends in part on the support, advice and resources provided by colleagues and certain socio-economic skills are necessary in order to effectively access this type of social resource.

The classroom mirrors the office environment in respect of the social scenarios it offers students. Challenges requiring EQ, such as teamwork, dealing with stress and pressure, adapting to organisational change, improving relationships with others and building social capital, are all established in school and then put to economic use once a student joins the workforce. Considering its significant impact on the future success of a student, EQ is certainly an attribute that requires careful and considerate development during a child’s formative years.

Although some students may develop emotional skills without much additional input from teachers, others may require additional assistance in order to advance their natural emotional skills to a level more suited to the demands of further education and work. Young people with related conditions (those on the autistic spectrum, for example) will require continued guidance throughout their education to adequately prepare them for the future. Those who are diagnosed early are likely to receive assistance in this area. However, many students fall through the net and complete (or drop out of) the education system with only rudimentary levels of EQ. There are also concerns that the support available to students with conditions such as autism (such as learning mentors) may diminish in the future as a result of cuts to Disabled Students Allowance. Without support, it is far more likely that young people lacking the necessary EQ will fall into unemployment. According to the National Autistic Society (2014), only 15% of people with autism are in full-time employment and 9% are in part-time employment, and the disorder is estimated to cost the UK taxpayers around £32bn a year.

EQ in the Classroom

In order to reduce the number of young people dropping out of education or work, both those with EQ related disorders and those who may require additional support for other reasons, the education union ATL offer some example techniques to incorporate EQ skills into the school and classroom: explicit lessons on social, emotional and behavioural skills through the use of role play activities, quizzes that encourages emotional reflection and self-awareness, teaching calming techniques that children can use themselves to stop and consider their state of mind when in an emotional situation, asking students to rate their mood using a colour or number when taking the register in the morning, or training young people in negotiation or conflict resolution skills that can be used during playground disputes (Claxon, 2005, p.10).

Such strategies can seem overly simplistic, but they can have a profound effect on those student who may not automatically pick up on social and emotional cues. It will also make it easier for teachers to identify the young people who need extra help with social and emotional abilities. Repeated practice of EQ skills in a supportive environment such as the classroom will eventually lead to healthier responses when students are faced with similar situations later on in life.


  • Claxon, G., An intelligent look at Emotional Intelligence. ATL.org. Association of Teachers and Lecturers [online], 2005. Available from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Accessed September 16, 2014.
  • De Haro, J., Castejon, J. Perceived emotional intelligence, general intelligence and early professional success: predictive and incremental validity. Anales De Psicologia [serial online]. n.d.;30(2):490-498. Available from: Science Citation Index, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 15, 2014.
  • Kiss, M., Kotsis, A., Kun, A., The Relationship Between Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence, Personality Styles and Academic Success. Business Education & Accreditation [serial online]. July 2014;6(2):23-34. Available from Business Source Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 15, 2014.
  • Mayer, J., Salovey, P., Caruso, D., Sitarenios, G. Emotional intelligence as a standard intelligence. Emotion [serial online]. September 2001;1(3):232-242. Available from: PsycINFO, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 15, 2014.
  • The National Autistic Society. About the campaign. Autism.org [online]. November 7, 2014. Available at https://www.autism.org.uk/what-we-do/professional-development/training-and-conferences/employment/finding-employment. Accessed September 16, 2014.

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