Emotional Intelligence - Educating the Right Mind for the 21st Century


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INTELIGENCIA EMOCIONAL. Educando la mente correcta para el siglo XXI
  Emotional Intelligence: Educating the Right Mind for the 21 st Century Darwin Nelson, Ph. D.Kaye Nelson, Ed. D.Gary Low, Ph. D.  ABSTRACT  This article focused on the importance of emotional intelligence in the education of students for the 21 st  century. The model of emotional intelligence developed by Nelson and Low (1977-2005) was presented and research findings indicating the importance of emotional intelligenceskills in academic achievement were discussed. The recommendation that education beexpanded to include the development of the emotional mind was supported by research inemotional intelligence and recent findings from affective neuroscience. If students are todevelop essential life skills and the ability to think constructively and act wisely, the emotionalmind must be understood and considered central to education for the 21 st  century. Introduction Extensive research (Ornstein, 1997; Epstein, 1998; and Nelson and Low, 2003) has indicated thatthe focus of current education is on rational and cognitive processes and that little emphasis has been placed on the important contributions of the emotional mind. Many current problemsfacing educators such as underachievement, lack of motivation, violence, alcohol and drugaddiction are indications of the need to include an emphasis on the education of the ‘right mind’,the emotional or experiential mind.Two minds are better than one, and positive behaviors that we value such as positive self esteem,meaningful goal achievement, dependability, effective communication, constructive thinking,emotional self control, problem solving skills, and healthy stress management skills involvehigher psychological processes and the integration of cognitive and emotional minds. If youaccept the premise that effective education involves the development of personal responsibilityskills, we need to broaden our education experience to include specific learning experiences tohelp students develop the emotional intelligence skills essential to academic achievement, personal well-being, and career/life effectiveness. This expanded view of the role of educationnecessitates a focus on developing the ‘right mind’ as well as the cognitive mind.Educating our two minds with a focus on how the cognitive and emotional mind work is the keyto developing emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent behavior is reflected in the abilityto think constructively and behave wisely. Intentional and self-directed behavior requiresreflective thoughts. Wise and effective behavior requires the ability to regulate and expressemotions in healthy ways. Emotional intelligence skills harmonize the cognitive and emotionalminds and are essential to effective behavior. New information from the area of affective neuroscience supports the research on therelationship of emotional intelligence to academic achievement and personal well-being. Thedevelopment of the brain during the period from early adolescence to young adulthood isdynamic and significant. The learning experiences provided during this critical developmental   period can positively impact the development of skills essential to academic, career, and lifeeffectiveness. Defining and Quantifying Emotional Intelligence In our model (Nelson and Low, 2003), emotional intelligence is defined as a confluence of developed skills and abilities to: (1) accurately know yourself in terms of personal strengths andweaknesses, (2) establish and maintain effective and healthy relationships, (3) get along andwork productively with others, and (4) deal effectively and healthily with the demands and pressures of daily living. The Emotional Skills Assessment Process (ESAP) is our research basedassessment model and is used to help students identify and understand important emotionalintelligence skills. The ESAP and our educational model for developing emotional intelligenceare presented in our book, Emotional Intelligence: Achieving Academic and Career Excellence,Prentice Hall, 2003)Effective and personally meaningful learning is a self-directed process. The ESAP allowsstudents to identify their current level of emotional skills and collaboratively plant improvementwith the help of a teacher, advisor, mentor, or counselor. The quality of the relationship with theindividual student is an important variable. Emotional learning is transformative in nature andrequires a student centered approach. The ESAP is a tool to begin a helping relationship with astudent and provides a map or guide in developing strength focused emotional learningexperiences.The ESAP is a brief, valid, and reliable instrument suitable use in educational settings. TheESAP provides scale specific measurement of ten emotional intelligence skills and three problemareas. ESAP skill scales are positively correlated and interrelated, and each scale has enoughindependence to warrant individual interpretation. Cross cultural research with the ESAPindicates stable construct validity across cultures, and the instrument has been translated inseveral languages and is used world wide.Factor analytic studies in the United States and China indicate that there are four distinct factors provided by the ESAP. These four factors of emotional intelligence have been identified as; (1)Interpersonal Skills, (2) Leadership Skills, (3) Self-Management Skills, and (4) IntrapersonalSkills. The specific emotional intelligence skills that contribute to these factors are: (1)Assertion, (2) Social Awareness, (3) Empathy, (4) Decision Making, (5) Positive Influence(Leadership), (6) Drive Strength (Goal Setting), (7) Commitment Ethic (PersonalResponsibility), (8) Time Management, (9) Self Esteem, and (10) Stress Management. Researchestablishing the relationship of emotional intelligence skills to academic achievement (Nelsonand Low, 2003; Vela, 2002; Nelson and Nelson. 2003; and Stottlemyer, 2002) has identified theESAP scales of Assertion, Drive Strength, Commitment Ethic, Time Management and StressManagement as being significant predictors of academic success. A large scale study with highschool and college students in China supported these findings. Emotional intelligence skills asmeasured by the ESAP are important factors in student achievement and personal well being. Constructive Thinking and Emotional Intelligence Einstein said long ago that humankind was doomed to self-destruction unless we change how wethink. Our research and the research of Seymour Epstein (1999) have indicated that constructivethinking is a key factor in emotional intelligence. Constructive thinking is reflective andinvolves the ability to use both the cognitive and emotional mind in choosing and expressing  effective behavior. In order to develop constructive thinking skills, students must understandhow our two minds work. Understanding the different functions and processes of the cognitiveand emotional minds is essential to meaningful emotional learning.A recent study (Nelson and Cox, 2004) has indicated that the emotional intelligence skillsmeasured by the ESAP are significantly related to Epstein/s \positive thinking patterns as well ashis key concept of global constructive thinking. Global constructive thinking as measured byEpstein’s Constructive Thinking Inventory and the ten emotional intelligence skills measured bythe ESAP are related and important factors in emotional intelligence. The empirical validity of the Constructive Thinking Inventory is extensive and supportive of the research findings reported by professionals using the ESAP in educational settings.Constructive thinking is a key factor in academic achievement, career success, and personalwell-being. The emotional intelligence skills identified by the ESAP assessment and globalconstructive thinking as measured by the Constructive Thinking Inventory provide a research based focal point for developing and implementing learning experiences to improve emotionalintelligence. To improve emotional intelligence, education must focus on the individual studentand the education of both minds.From a practical view, emotional intelligence is the ability to think constructively and behavewisely. Emotionally intelligent behavior is characterized by what we have long called wisdom.A wise person is much more than an intelligent person. An intelligent person may possess anextensive vocabulary, exquisite logical reasoning skills, and exceptional abilities and knowledgein areas of science and mathematics and not be wise or effective in behavior. Emotionalintelligence links and harmonizes thoughts and feelings into intentional and effective behavior.Wisdom is the ability to make good judgments based on experience. Understanding emotionalexperience and developing the ability to improve the emotional mind as well as the cognitivemind is essential to developing emotional intelligence.Changing the emotional mind can occur at the speed of thought. Changing the emotional mindand improving our ability to think constructively requires a clear understanding of how our twominds work. Emotional learning occurs best in an educational environment that is studentcentered and focused on framing learning to a context that is personally relevant to the individuallearner. Epstein has provided an excellent model to illustrate a point by point comparison of thefunctions and processes associated with both the cognitive and emotional (experiential) mind.Effective emotional learning must recognize and integrate these differential mind functions. How Our Two Minds Work The essential point for consideration in designing educational experiences that developconstructive thinking and effective behavior involves a clear understanding of how the cognitivemind and emotional mind differ in function and process. Most of the emphasis in currenteducation is on teaching cognitive processes, and the evaluation of educational effectivenesscenters on tested performance. It is important to emphasize that the cognitive and emotionalminds are both ways of knowing and making sense out of our human experience. They are bothcognitive systems.Epstein (1998) points out that the emotional mind: (1) learns directly from experience, (2)thinks quickly for immediate action, (3) is holistic, (4) thinks in terms of associations, (5) isclosely connected to emotions, (6) interprets experience and guides conscious thoughts and   behaviors through ‘vibes’ from past experiences, (7) sees the world in concrete images,metaphors, and stories, (8) is experienced passively as if we are sized by our emotions, (9)experiences its beliefs as self-evidently valid (experiencing is believing), (10) pays attention onlyto outcome, (11) thinks in terms of broad categories, (12) operates in different modescorresponding to specific emotional states, and (13) changes slowly with repetitive or intenseexperience.In contrast, Epstein (1998) has shown that the cognitive mind: (1) learns from abstractrepresentations, (2) thinks slowly, deliberately and is oriented toward planning andconsideration, (3) is analytic, (4) thinks in terms of causes and effects, (5) separates logic fromemotions, (6) interprets experience through conscious appraisal of events, (7) sees the world inabstract symbols (words and numbers), (8) experienced actively and consciously (as if we are incontrol of our thoughts), (9) requires justification by logic and evidence ( give me proof), (10) pays attention also to process, (11) thinks in terms of finer distinctions and gradations, (12)highly integrated and more internally consistent, and (13) changes rapidly. This point by pointcomparison of the workings of our two minds has important implications for education.Effective behavior and wisdom seem to require an understanding and integration of theemotional mind and the cognitive mind. An emphasis on one to the neglect of the other leads to behavior that is incomplete. By accepting the value of both minds, we can develop educationalexperiences that impact thinking, the constructive expression of emotions, and the developmentof wise and effective behaviors. Emotional intelligence skills are higher psychological processesthat harmonize the two minds and contribute to academic success, career and work effectiveness,and personal well-being (mental and physical health)Ornstein (1997) has stated that education must focus on both minds and called for an educationalsystem that recognizes how our brains work. Epstein (1998) has argued for the recognition thatthe emotional mind plays an important role in the development of constructive thinking and thatstudents need to learn how to develop positive thinking patterns. Our research (Nelson and Low)has identified some of the positive contributions of the emotional mind to academic achievement,effective teaching, and mental health. Educating the Right Mind The young people of the world are the most important resource in the global economy. We canno longer afford to ignore the vast numbers of students who do not benefit from our currenteducational system. Underachievement, lack of motivation, alcohol and drug addiction,violence, and severe mental health problems are a few of the indications that something is goingwrong. We argue for the inclusion of emotional learning as a central focus in education for the21 st  century.The education of the right mind necessitates a view of learning that is transformative rather thancognitive and information based. In our view, education must be relevant to the individualstudent’s experience and provide learning that the student can use to improve themselves as welltheir world. References Cox, Judith and Nelson, D. (2004). The relationship of emotional intelligence skills and constructive thinking patterns . Unpublished raw data, Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
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