Emotional Intelligence in schools – only half a story

Last April I wrote about the SEAL programme. There was a national strategy and the government was planning to spend £millions to embed the social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) in the curriculum and culture of primary and secondary schools.

Will Culver at the University of Greenwich, in a letter to The Psychologist last April, queried whether they had the emphasis on the right things.

He argued that by definition Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the management of your own emotions and other people’s emotions by understanding all the components of emotions and their consequences.

Yet the majority of the SEAL material focuses on behaviours associated with EI rather than cognitive aspects, even though the effectiveness of Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is well understood (and supported by the NHS as the treatment of choice amongst talking therapies for anxiety and depression).

He also said that although the (then) Department for Children, Schools and Families’ guidance booklet states how important it is for children to believe that they can learn, there seem to be few resources devoted to the importance of thoughts and beliefs in shaping behaviour and emotional intelligence.

If Culver was right it seemed a shame to spend so much money to address only the behavioural aspects of EI and overlook the more reflective development of self-awareness and empathy which is critical to the development of emotional intelligence.

SEAL is still around and there are many school web-sites singing its praises. However the national evaluation, found on the (re-named)  Department for Education’s web-site, suggests that the outcomes have not been as good as expected (See summary: Research Brief DFE-RB049 published October 2010).

The programmes “had failed to have a positive impact” and “had not produced the expected changes“. In fact just the opposite it seems as it had reduced the trust and respect  for teachers, reduced the liking for school, and failed to provide support. On the other hand it had given pupils more autonomy and influence. So not all bad?

The report acknowledged that earlier SEL programmes typically had more monitoring and sufficient financial and human resources as well as a more structured and consistent approach-  which they recommended for SEAL programmes. They also suggested that it was down to the “will and skill of staff”.

There are some programmes around however which seem to be based on RET or CBT. For example in an article headlined “Pupils bounce back with happiness lessons” The Times reported on a US based programme called Resilience which “is giving children the emotional intelligence to handle their lives”.

Originally designed to help combat depression it is now used to develop confidence and well-being and is also being offered to parents. It teaches children how to deal with complex emotions and difficult situations.

And the programme came to the UK last year when a team from the University of Pennsylvania ran a 6 day course in “Resilience Skills for teenagers”  at Wellington College near Crowthorne, England,  aimed at teachers, mentors, school managers and governors.

Based on an  original post in EI 4U and updated

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2 thoughts on “Emotional Intelligence in schools – only half a story

  1. […] Emotional Intelligence in schools – only half a story […]

  2. […] for 3rd class graduates. And isn’t it only right that teachers who are responsible for developing EI in schools should be emotionally literate […]

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