Guest Post: Emotional Intelligence and Teaching

This week’s post is from the Social Work Department’s Myke Selha. Please note the professional development opportunities referenced at the end of this post, and consider participating in either one (or both!)

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is one of those concepts, like The Theory of Relativity and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, that are more complex than just a literal reading of the name. Some people equate EQ with empathy. While empathy is certainly a skill of EQ, it is only one tool in the toolbox.

There are several conceptualizations of emotional intelligence. What most of the theories share in common is an incorporation of at least three domains: self-based emotions, other-based emotions, interpersonal emotions. Each of these domains includes the capacity to 1) be aware of emotions, 2) manage the expression of the emotion, 3) intentionally integrate emotions into the thought process. 1

While there also some disagreement in what percentage of emotional intelligence is trait-based vs skill-based, there are recognized techniques to improve your EQ. Skills of emotional intelligence include: self-reflection, active listening, communication, collaboration, and stress management. Another skill is the aforementioned empathy.

It used to be assumed that people were either born with empathy or not. It is now understood that empathy is a skill that can be taught. After researching the neuroscience of empathy, Dr. Helen Reiss, developed an empathy training for medical professionals that improved patient satisfaction and compliance. For an introduction, watch her Ted Talk on The Power of Empathy.

Right about now you may be thinking, “Thank you for sharing this insight, Myke. But what does this have to do with me?” That is a great question.

Just as emotional intelligence is focused both internally and externally, so is the importance for educators to embrace EQ. First of all, to help our students reach their greatest potential, we must pay attention to their EQ. When the primary measurement of students’ academic success is grades based solely on intellectual/cognitive achievements, we end up producing graduate who are best suited to be college professors. Success in nearly any other profession requires a degree of emotional/social intelligence. Both psychologists E.L. Thorndike in the 1920s and Robert Sternberg in the 1980s concluded, “social intelligence is both distinct from academic abilities and a key part of what makes people do well in the practicalities of life.”2. In a 2005 study, it was shown that 1st year students who scored higher on the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) also had higher GPA’s after their first year.3

Beyond our students, though, is the importance of educators to strengthen their own emotional intelligence. Historically, most of the research on EQ in the academic setting has focused on students and how it is important to their success. Looking at the role of faculty EQ is relatively new. (Possibly because professors prefer to do the research rather than being researched.)

Some preliminary research coming out of Iran shows that a faculty member’s emotional intelligence has a strong correlation to the academic performance of their students. Primarily because a high EQ helps the professor respond to students’ emotions and effectively motivate them to do well in the course. Three components in particular were identified: self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal skills.4

If you would like to learn more about the role emotional intelligence plays in academia, an particularly in creating a sense of belonging, there are a couple of opportunities. First of all, I will be presenting “How to talk with students to foster belonging” 9-10 AM, October 11th as a part of the October 11th Belonging Workshop. This presentation is open to all faculty and staff. Sign up is now available online for the October 11th presentation! Advisors can also sign up for the workshop portion, 10:15 am to 1 pm.  The workshop will focus on how to incorporate this material into your own advising and conversations with students.  Full-time faculty members and adjunct advisors will receive a $100 stipend for their participation (funding provided as part of the NetVUE grant for implementing Vocation into the advising curriculum).  Lunch will be provided.

Secondly, C.E.T.L. will be sponsoring an Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom Teaching Circle in the near future. If you are interested in participating, please let Kevin Gannon ( or me ( know.





  1. For a fairly accessible comparison of the major theories, read Emmerling, R. J. & Goleman, D. (2003, October). Emotional intelligence: Issues and common misunderstandings. Issues and Recent Developments in Emotional Intelligence,1(1) available for download at
  2. (Sternberg, R.J. (1985) Beyond I.Q. Cambridge University Press.)
  3. Parker, JD. 2005. Academic Achievement and Emotional Intelligence: Predicting the Successful Transition from High School to University. Journal of the 1st Year Experience. Vol 17(1)
  4. Rahmat, N et. al. (2014) Relationship between the faculty members’ emotional intelligence and education performance at Urmia University. European Journal of Experimental Biology, 4(1).

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