Over these past 20 years, Emotional Intelligence (EI) has gained considerable increased attention among psychologists as well as educators and the general public. EI was the feature article on a cover of TIME magazine about 10 years back, and it has been featured in many newspapers, internet websites, and trade texts dealing with self-help, management practices, and assessment.
EI has often been referred to as having 5 components: Self-awareness–knowing your emotions, recognizing feelings as they occur, and discriminating between them, Mood management–handling feelings so they’re relevant to the current situation and you respond in an appropriate manner, Self-motivation–utilizing your emotions and directing yourself towards a goal, while controlling self-doubt, inertia, and impulsiveness, Empathy–recognizing feelings in others, tuning into their verbal and nonverbal cues, and being able to communicate this awareness, and Managing relationships–handling interpersonal interaction, and being able to utilize negotiation in the service of conflict resolution.
EI’s popularity can be attributed to strong claims about its ability to predict real-life outcomes above and beyond traditional measures of intelligence. As a result, intervention programs aimed at improving students’ Emotional Intelligence have entered the curriculum in thousands of America’s schools, and many within our area. According to a recent article in the School Psychologist Quarterly, however, many of the existing programs lack consistency and clear, measurable goals.
When Goleman’s book on EI first appeared, it was criticized by some in the scientific community for not providing any empirical support for his claims (Mayer & Cobb, 2000; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2004). Critics also contended that Goleman’s definition of EI is overinclusive, incorporating aspects of cognition, personality, motivation, emotions, neurobiology, and intelligence (Locke, 2005; Matthews et al., 2002). In fact, many equate his conceptualization of EI with almost any desirable trait that is not measured by traditional intelligence tests (Grewal & Salovey, 2005). Further, his conceptualization of EI has yet to show any true predictive ability when factors such as intelligence or personality are factored out. Therefore, many feel that Goleman’s concept of EI does not actually define a unique and valid construct.
This criticism, however, has become problematic for educators that are responsible for K-12 curriculum focused upon social, emotional, and behavioral learning, e.g., an Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Assistant Superintendent for Special Services, or Director of Special Education. Parents who recognize the needs of their children then are left to struggle with school districts when they want EI taught to their children, or alternately put, social, emotional and behavioral skill acquisition. This often leaves parents left in the middle and their children’s needs left un-met.
My advice to parents is to be clear with administrators in their school districts about their child’s special needs and to articulate clearly how a child’s deficits in social, emotional, and behavioral skills, demand direct instruction of those skills within the child’s educational experience. It is often the case that only with strong advocacy by parents and outside professionals that a child’s social, emotional and behavioral needs will receive the attention they deserve.
Goleman, D., Working with Emotional Intelligence, (1998), Bantam Books
Grewal, D and Salovey, P. (2005) “ The Science of Emotional Intelligence”, Current Directions in Psychological Science
Locke (2005) “Why Emotional Intelligence is an Invalid construct”, Journal of Organizational Behavior,
Matthews, G., Zeidner, M., Roberts, RD, (2002) Emotional Intelligence: Science and Myth MIT Press
Mayer, JD and Cobb, CD (2000) –“Educational Policy and Emotional Intelligence”, Educational Psychology Review
Mayer, JD, Salovey, P and Caruso, DR (2004) “Emotional Intelligence: theories and findings”, Psychological Inquiry