The University of Vermont and the Science of Emotional Intelligence
In recent years, the importance of emotional skills has grown beyond simple descriptive descriptions of basic characteristics. In fact, many of the educators using mathematics emphasize emotional learning as a way to increase students’ attentiveness, response times, and other indicators of academic skills. Nevertheless, emotion actually plays a much larger role in education than simply being able to read a page and solve a math problem.
Although lots of educators have embraced the idea of emotional learning, it’s difficult to truly identify the link between emotions and skills. It’s even more difficult to pinpoint why teachers employ emotion recognition and include it in teaching. Though the answer lies in our brains’ deep emotional system, our emotional system isn’t just concerned with what’s going on inside our heads.
Focusing on emotional skills can help you to counter negative thoughts and analyze problems objectively. That’s what Emotional Intelligence refers to when scientists classify people as possessing this essential skill – and for better or worse, many teachers believe emotional skills enhance their job performance and show an increase in students’ attention span and problem solving abilities.
To better understand how the brain benefits from emotional learning, scientists analyzed participants’ synapses – the connections between neurons responsible for sending signals. They developed an emotion perception scale that measures how positive or negative a behavior is for the individual. In this way, researchers can track how emotions influence our synapses over time and, importantly, link emotional events to their effects on our brains.
The results of these studies showed that increases in emotional learning can affect changes in neurons, such as production of new synapses, while decreases in emotional learning can affect synapses. That same research also showed that emotion recognition and emotional learning can affect learning and become part of how brains develop, according to Li Ka-Yin, a professor of applied mathematics and psychology at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
So what are the advantages of emotional learning? Learning how to manage emotions can improve students’ emotional awareness.
More science now suggests that our brains aren’t just important for processing information, but also for engaging and controlling emotions. When we engage in positive emotions – like love or laughter – our brains experience positive changes. These feelings encourage important cognitive processes like motivation, coordination, and attention. These changes also allow our minds to sort out what the emotional thoughts are, which helps to keep us from getting mad.
A 2011 study conducted by David Strayer, a professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Vermont, found that children who enjoy activities like Lego building have built neural synapses that store information about a cool background playing a significant role in their problem solving and decision-making abilities. The same is true for people who don’t love to play with Lego.
Through his research, Strayer posited that emotional learning can help you change brain development, providing advantages to both the child and the teacher. Rather than locking students into a certain ideology or thinking process, you can gradually expose students to new ways of thinking. That way, you train them to develop a deeper connection with the brain’s emotional centers and think more empathetically.
If you take time to cultivate positive emotions, your children will grow up to have more value in your workplace, because you’ll be able to attract a pool of ideal candidates who can respond to different problems. While you wouldn’t want your students to stop relating to their emotions, you would want them to have the tools necessary to handle them and react appropriately.
This can be a difficult balancing act. However, if you keep emotion development a priority, you’ll establish a strong foundation for emotional intelligence. That will lead to more well-functioning individuals throughout your work life.
MindShift is a network of certified educators, certified coaches, and executive coaches helping people become happier, healthier, and more productive. Do you have a question for a MindShift Expert? Email Steve in [email protected] and get more info on how to start a Personal Power Project.