Educators, parents and students all agree; school should be a great place to learn and grow.  What does it take to make that happen? Specifically, what skills do the adults and children need to practice to cultivate an ideal learning environment?

A growing body of research says “emotional intelligence” skills — developed through a process called “social emotional learning” (SEL) is invaluable. But how? Top experts will gather at the World EQ Summit in November to answer. We asked what they’ll be sharing about their science and practice. Here are five essential ingredients, along with free slides to help introduce the importance of emotional intelligence in your community.

World EQ Summit: How Social Emotional Learning Works

Emotional intelligence, aka “EQ,” has been implemented in pioneering educational settings around the world for over 30 years. One key reason is to make academic learning more powerful.

The link between social emotional learning and academic success is a surprise to some people, but the research on SEL and academic success is compelling. To support you to share these ideas, click below for a free kit to share the data, including an eBook on the research showing the benefits of social emotional learning, and slides to use to catalyze discussion of SEL.

Here are five essential ideas on how to put the research on EQ & SEL into action
— from speakers at the World EQ Summit:

1. Strengthen Learning by Stirring in Emotion


New research by neuroscientists like Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang has found emotions play a central role even in traditional academics. One reason is how the brain is motivated to pay attention:  “It is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about,” Immordino Yang explains. She studies the psychological and neurobiological bases of social emotion, self-awareness and culture and their implications for learning, development and schools.  As she explains in this in-depth interview on emotions and learning, without emotion, our brains literally can not store or sort information, nor make meaning of information to translate into learning.

When educators focus on emotional intelligence, they learn to engage their own and students’ emotions to build the active brain state required for optimal learning. As Dr. Anabel Jensen, who will provide a keynote address at the education day of the World EQ Summit in Dubai, says: “Great educators stir emotion into the ‘soup of learning.’”

Meet Nomeda Marazienė from CEO Leadership Experts Group

Nomeda works with Lithuanian school programs for foster children.  In her at risk population, she sees many adults who didn’t have access to safe schools.  Recently a client told her:

I forgot everything I was taught. I only remembered what I learned.”

In this boy’s experience, formal educational content learning was overshadowed by the emotional and social climate of the school setting. The learning around the learning was what he remembered the most.

At the education day of World EQ Summit, Nomeda Marazienė will share the beautiful case of bringing EQ to foster children in Lithuania, and the powerful lessons learned from this ongoing, large-scale project to transform lives from the inside-out. One key: Bringing emotion forward.

2. Reduce the Drama by Treating Emotions as Normal


In many cultures, it’s normal to pretend we can just push emotions aside — or focus only on “positive” feelings. Of course, it’s completely irrational to act as if people are just rational. In fact, new research confirms that simply accepting emotions is the most effective way to handle even very challenging feelings.

After all, emotions help us prioritize, categorize and link experiences… the very processes we want students to do whether they’re studying math, poetry, physics or history. All academic learning requires learning to focus, to sort, to store, and to communicate — and emotion drives our brains in these essential tasks.

So how you feel changes how you learn. Research shows the context for learning it critical for student achievement. Students who feel threatened or overwhelmed go into a “fight or flight” response.  Imagine a child who is stressed by challenging material like a confusing math problem, or when called on don’t have the answer, or are teased by another student.  It seems almost impossible to learn in this setting.

Learning, therefore, is even more difficult in an unstable environment. For example, a school program called Indigo teaches children in conflict-torn communities in Jordan about emotions. At the World EQ Summit, the leaders of Indigo will share how EQ works in the context of the Arabic-speaking communities they serve.

Meet Sereen Abu Maizar and  Manal Milbes from

When it comes to learning, emotions play an essential role. Feelings can lead to connection and engagement with the overall classroom environment, peers and teacher, and drive intrinsic motivation which drives learning.

Seeren and Manal shared this story as an example:

Like many children in our area, Hamza has struggled with his parents constantly moving between different countries. When he was seven year old, Hamza’s behavior became destructive; he was teasing and bullying. The reasons for his behavior were not really clear to him or his teachers. Then he started to learn more about emotions. After 3 weeks of EQ training at school, something dramatically changed.

When Hamza was able to express his feelings in a positive way, he began to be able to talk about what he really wanted: connection and stability. Hamza’s teachers reported that he expresses himself better and work towards building healthier connection with his friends and family.  Over time, Hamza became a leader in his class and has been helping the teachers in supporting younger children in getting acquainted to the new environment.

When he could name his feeling, he could understand something about himself, and help others do that too. In turn, he became more skilled at Navigating Emotions so he wasn’t a victim of his own feelings — he was becoming a leader of himself as well as a leader in his class.

EQ Skill: Navigate Emotions

In the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence (click here), one of the key learnable, measurable skills is called “Navigate Emotions.” We use the term “navigate” instead of more common words like, “control,” to signify that feelings are not something negative or problematic — they are a force with which we can work. Emotions are like the wind: It can capsize a boat, but if handled with care, it can fill a sail instead.

In Navigating Emotions, instead of thinking of emotions as something bad that have to be suppressed, students can begin to treat all emotions, even challenging ones like anger, as resources. When students are able to assess, harness, and transform emotions as a strategic resource, they are better able to learn and grow.  That’s why learning to navigate emotions is critical for students to learn. In schools that are great place to learn, students learn the skills to navigate emotions and feel a sense of empowerment and autonomy. These students are better equipped to thrive.  

3. Solve Problems by Adding Empathy


Anyone who’s tried learning something new knows it can be hard work – as learners, we all have first-hand experience that it’s not an easy process. As parents, we’ve seen our children crying in their beds because of struggles at school. As teachers, we’ve seen all kinds of conflicts and struggles fueled by the stress on children today.

These struggles are made more intense by growing stress around the globe, which affects everyone involved in a school. While it’s absolutely essential that we find ways to reduce that stress, in the meantime, there’s good news: When children and adults develop more social and emotional skills, research says stress also has positive benefits. In this context, one of the most powerful resources in an educator’s “bag of tricks” is the ability to increase empathy.

Sanjoli Chimni has seen this first hand. In her career as a high-powered investment banker, Sanjoli learned a thing or two about managing stress. But as she’ll share at the World EQ Summit, she discovered she needed a higher return on investment than was possible in the financial sector, so she and her father created a foundation to transform education in India, and increasing empathy is one of their top priorities. Not because it’s “nice,” but because it’s transformational.

Meet Sanjoli Chimni Pande from the Mind and Heart Foundation

At the Mind and Heart Foundation we have customized programs to support Teachers to develop and strengthen their EQ and apply EI towards achieving better classroom management and enhancing the delivery of desirable learning outcomes

Sanjoli shares this example:

It’s essential to keep in mind that emotions impact learning. Emotions, cognition and behaviour are completely intertwined. Here is a story: I was talking with a teacher who was heartbroken because she received tragic news in her personal life. As you can imagine, it affected her ability to teach in the classroom. She was less able to handle the challenges, sometimes she was more likely to snap at child, other times she just overlooked misbehaviour in the classroom. Can you imagine how you would react if you were this teacher? In this story, it’s easy for all of us to picture that emotions, thinking and behavior are affecting one another.

Now, let’s apply this same thinking about the room full of children. What experiences did they have this morning that are affecting their feelings? How is this changing their thinking and behavior?

As we bring more empathy to think about all the people in the classroom, child and adult alike, can we find compassion to accept that we’re all facing challenges? Yes, we are here to work — but we will do our best work if we ask such questions help us to provoke simple but valuable observations about ourselves and each other.

By actively practicing empathy, people are empowered to deepen their relationships with others. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel. It’s a remarkable ability – and opportunity – to form an emotional connection that fuels insight, trust, and helps us solve problems together. The best news is that empathy is learnable — as explained in the case:

EQ Skill: Increase Empathy

In the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence (click here), one of the key learnable, measurable skills is called “Increase Empathy.” Instead of a focus on empathizing toward others, when we “increase empathy” we increase it for everyone, including ourselves. The secret is being compassionately curious. Literature, history, sports, even math class, provides many chances to wonder: “What might be going on for this person?”

When teaching children about empathy, don’t confuse “empathy” and “being nice.” Empathy is not manners. Empathy it isn’t forged by telling someone to “say sorry” — it grows from feeling a heart-to-heart connection. So invite children to share more about themselves. Help them learn to listen carefully, and to be curious about one another’s experiences.

4. Do the Best Teaching by Role Modeling


Have you heard the expression, “You actions are so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying?” Dr. Anabel Jensen says that in her experience, “children remember 70% of what you do, but less than 30% of what you say.” In other words, the biggest challenge for social emotional learning  is that we, teachers and parents, need to become active, careful “practitioners” — people practicing — so we can become role models of emotional intelligence.

Meet Dr. Sue McNamara, Six Seconds’ Regional Network Director for Asia Pacific:

Sue’s doctoral research tested what happens when parent/caregivers and teachers develop their EQ skills — and the effects on the children in their care & classrooms.

Sue’s findings:

When parents increase their emotional intelligence and practice EQ skills daily this has a profound effect on the whole family. Parents become more self-aware of their own thoughts, feelings, actions and patterns and hence, they are better able to navigate their own emotions, be more resistant of the consequences of their actions and how to align their decisions to their value system.  If one parent attends a series of EQ workshops, designed to equip them with actionable skills, and then works hard to practice and action the competencies, there is a ripple effect, which is passed on not only to the children in their care, but also the other adults in the family.  

In our research, we found that when a significant adult in a family models more emotionally intelligent behaviours, the children/family members learn and ‘copy’ these more effective behaviours.  This is thanks to mirror neurons — a system our brains use to learn through observing others. It’s automatic, but research shows we can increase the effects by paying closer attention.

Children are constantly watching and looking at adults for cues of how to handle situations. When parents use self-awareness, they can align how they want their children to act and then model those interactions and behaviours. Their children will have a greater opportunity to increase their emotional quotient, associated behaviours and outcomes.

In her research, Dr. McNamara confirmed again that the skills of emotional intelligence are learnable — and that by learning and practicing these skills, we pass those on to the children around us.

Perhaps this is one reason specific EQ training and support for teachers can help them achieve better classroom management, improved learning outcomes and overall higher school climate. When teachers develop their own EQ, they respond more carefully — and role-model a more positive and effective way for students to handle the complexities of their lives.

5. Improve Achievement AND Life Success by Getting Back to the Real Basics

The lament of teachers and administrators worldwide: “I don’t have time for one more thing.” One of the most powerful lessons the experts will share at the World EQ Summit is that effective social emotional learning is not an “add on.” It’s not a program or an app or a text — in fact, the SEL initiatives featured at the Summit don’t require schools to buy anything. They SAVE time, SAVE money, SAVE student’s lives, SAVE teacher’s sanity, and they even improve test scores.

The great myth of the “back to basics” movement in education is the mistaken notion that more time on rote learning will improve academic performance. In fact, study after study has found that when teachers invest in creating caring relationships, when schools are positive and children want to come to school — everyone does better. In other words, the REAL basics of education are not writing, reading, and arithmetic… the real basics are people and relationships.

Not yet convinced? Click the button below to get the eBook and slides:

The bottom line: Social Emotional Learning works for everyone.

When teachers and parents develop their own EQ skills, they may experience renewed energy and a sense of purpose, as they re-discover the power and joy of connecting to students and to each other in a learning community.

As educators commit to SEL in their schools, students will be more able to engage and want to be in school. When children are safe — both physically and emotionally — and they feel belonging and purpose, they do better academically, and for life.


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