Gretchen Halasi-Kun

EdPsy 399OL

April 26, 2001

Emotional Intelligence Curricula

Emotional Intelligence Research
Educational Implications



Children in today's American schools are learning about science, math, language, and social studies inside the classroom. Outside of the classroom, however, children are learning about conflict, disappointment, frustration, and anger. Children are learning about these emotional issues on the school's periphery: on the bus, the playground, the lunchroom. Traditionally, these issues have not been considered important enough to be taught in the classroom. The emotional development of children needs to come in from the periphery and into the classroom where it can be openly discussed and children can learn skills to deal with the real life situations that confront them daily.

The lessons of how to deal with social situations are lessons to be learned as children and used throughout the lifespan. At the root of every social situation is emotion. Children need to be taught to identify their own emotions and to recognize the emotions of others through verbal and non-verbal communication. Children need to learn how to use their emotions as tools toward success, rather than obstacles that stand in their way. Children need to learn how to deal with emotions and avoid emotional explosions of irrational behavior. What needs to be taught in the schools is a curriculum of emotional intelligence.

This paper is an examination of emotional intelligence and its implications for elementary education. First, I will examine the construct of emotional intelligence and the research behind it. Then I will discuss the practical applications for emotional intelligence in schools before turning to an examination of some of the emotional intelligence curricula present in our schools today.

Emotional Intelligence Research:

Emotional intelligence is a set of skills or abilities such as "being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one's moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope." (Goleman, 1995, 35) Emotional intelligence includes understanding one's own emotions and dealing with them effectively, as well as interpreting the emotions of others.

Peter Salovey of Yale University and John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire have made significant contributions to the field of emotional intelligence. Salovey and Mayer (1990: 189) define emotional intelligence as "the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions." They break emotional intelligence into three abilities: accurate appraisal and expression of emotions, recognizance of others' emotions and empathy, and the regulation of emotion in self and others (1990).

Appraising and expressing emotions accurately is a part of emotional intelligence, as defined by Salovey and Mayer (1990). Individuals who are more accurate can more quickly perceive and respond to their own emotions and better express those emotions to others. Additionally, such emotionally intelligent individuals can respond more appropriately to their own emotions because they can more accurately perceive them. These skills fall into the construct of emotional intelligence because of the cognitive processing of emotions that is involved.

The skillful recognizance of others' emotional reactions and empathic responses to them is a component of Salovey's and Mayer's emotional intelligence. These skills enable individuals to gauge accurately the affective responses in others and to choose socially adaptive behaviors in response. Individuals with this skill appear warm, friendly, and trustworthy; whereas individuals who lack this skill seem insensitive, dull, and cold.

The regulation of emotion is included in the construct of emotional intelligence because it may lead to more adaptive and reinforcing mood states. Most people regulate emotion in themselves and in others. Emotionally intelligent people, however, are especially skilled at regulating emotion and do so to meet their goals. There are two sides to this skill. On the positive side, individuals may use their skills to improve their own and others' moods, to encourage, and to motivate. This is what is known as charisma. On the negative side, individuals may use the skill as a tool for manipulation of others.

Many studies have been done that focus on the individual components of emotional intelligence (i.e. impulse control, empathy, decision making) and the worth of these components as predictors of future success. Emotional intelligence is offered as an explanation for why someone with an IQ of 100 can be boss to someone with an IQ of 160. It is the emotional skills involved in emotional intelligence that help people get ahead. Three areas of research will be highlighted in this paper: impulse control, grades as poor predictors of future success, and empathy.

Impulse control, self-restraint, and the ability to delay gratification are skills that contribute to emotional intelligence. Walter Mischel (1990) began a study in the 1960s at Stanford University with preschool children. These children were tracked down again years later as they were graduating high school.

The four-year-olds were told that if they wait until after the experimenter runs an errand, they could have two marshmallows. If they couldn't wait until then, they could only have one marshmallow - but they could eat it right away. Some four-year-olds were able to wait for fifteen to twenty minutes for the experimenter to return. To busy themselves while they waited, some covered their eyes so they wouldn't have to look at the marshmallows, some sang songs, played games with their hands and feet, and some even tried to sleep. Those four-year-olds received the two marshmallow reward. But other, more impulsive, four-year-olds grabbed the one marshmallow almost immediately after the experimenter left the room.

Years later, these subjects were tracked down as adolescents and dramatic emotional and social differences were found between the grab-the-marshmallow preschoolers and their gratification-delaying peers. Those who had controlled their impulse at age four were more socially competent as adolescents: personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. They were less likely to have problems handling stress, and performed well under pressure. They enjoyed challenges, were self-reliant, confident, and trustworthy. And, more than a decade later, they were still able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals.

The marshmallow-grabbers, however, tended to have more troubled personalities. They were more likely to be seen as stubborn, indecisive, easily upset by frustrations, to have a poor self-image, to be jealous, to overreact to irritations with a temper, and to provoke arguments and fights. And, after all those years, they still were unable to delay gratification.

Karen Arnold (as cited in Goleman, 1995) of Boston University is one of the researchers who studied eighty-one valedictorians from the 1981 class in Illinois high schools. All of the subjects had the highest grade point averages in their high schools and they continued to do well in college, receiving excellent grades. But by their late twenties they had climbed to only average levels of success. Ten years after graduating from high school, only one in four was at the highest level of young people of comparable age in their chosen profession, and many were doing much less well. Arnold explains, " I think we've discovered the 'dutiful'-- people who know how to achieve in the system. But valedictorians struggle as surely as we all do. To know that a person is a valedictorian is to know only that he or she is exceedingly good at achievement as measured by grades. It tells you nothing about how they react to the vicissitudes of life." (as cited in Goleman, 1995, 35-36)

Research on empathy has shown that it too is a valid predictor of personal success and happiness, more so than academic intelligence. Robert Rosenthal (as cited in McReynolds, 1977) has studied empathy, (specifically the empathic skill of reading another person's emotions through nonverbal cues) and found the benefits of being able to read feelings from nonverbal cues include being better adjusted emotionally, more popular, more outgoing, and more sensitive.

The relationship between empathy and IQ was examined by Rosenthal. In tests with 1,011 children, those who showed an aptitude for reading feelings nonverbally were among the most popular in their schools, and the most emotionally stable. They also did better in school, even though, on average, their IQs were not higher than those children who were less skilled at reading nonverbal messages. This suggests that the empathic ability smoothed the way for classroom success.

As research in impulse control, career success, and empathy demonstrate, emotional intelligence is a meta-ability. That is, emotional intelligence is a skill that improves an individual's ability to succeed in other domains such as careers and relationships. Emotional intelligence is a powerful predictor of future success, much more than IQ or SAT scores, because it is a meta-ability. High scores in emotional intelligence are proven to lead to success in various domains of an individual's life - more so than high scores on a geography or European history test. Emotional intelligence, with its status as a meta-ability, needs to be taught in schools.

Educational Implications:

Emotional intelligence, unlike IQ, is not fixed at birth. On the contrary it can, and should, be taught. There are several emotional intelligence curricula that exist today and are being taught in elementary schools. Some of the leaders in the emotional intelligence movement advocate teaching emotional intelligence as a separate class, others advocate blending the standard academic material with lessons on emotional intelligence. The common thread is the goal of raising the level of social and emotional competence in children as a part of their regular education - not just something taught remedially to children who are faltering and identified as troubled, but a set of skills and understanding essential for every child.

At the Neuva School in San Francisco, students attend a class called Self Science. The tensions and traumas of children's lives are the topics covered in this class. Karen Stone McCown, developer of the Self Science Curriculum and founder of Nueva said, "Learning doesn't take place in isolation from kids' feelings. Being emotionally literate is as important for learning as instruction in math and reading." (as cited in Goleman, 1995)

Karen Stone McCown and Harold Dillehunt (1978) developed the Self Science Curriculum. The curriculum includes many components of emotional intelligence:

Self-awareness: observing yourself and recognizing your feelings; building a vocabulary for feelings; knowing the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and reactions.

Personal decision-making: examining your actions and knowing their consequences; knowing if thought of feeling is ruling a decision; applying these insights to issues such as sex and drugs.

Handling stress: learning the value of exercise, guided imagery, relaxation methods.

Empathy: understanding others' feelings and concerns and taking their perspective; appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.

Conflict resolution: how to fight fair with other kids, with parents, with teachers; the win/win model for negotiating compromise.

There are many other components of the Self Science Curriculum, all of them aiming toward the goal of more socially and emotionally competent individuals.

The Yale-New Haven Social Competence Promotion Program is in place at Troup Middle School in New Haven, Connecticut. Troup is located in a troubled and chaotic area of New Haven. Students are confronted with issues of drugs, AIDS, and abuse as a part of their daily lives. Social competence is not a fringe course; it is a survival skill.

An evaluation of the Social Competence Program (Elias & Weissberg, 1990) showed that children who participated in the program had improved problem-solving skills, more involvement with peers, better impulse control, and improved social behavior. Children were also found to have improved interpersonal effectiveness and popularity, enhanced coping skills, more skill in handling interpersonal problems, better coping with anxiety, less delinquent behaviors, and better conflict-resolution skills.

Self Science and the Social Competence Program are "pure" emotional intelligence curricula. There are many curricula that are considered "blends" because they call for a combination of emotional intelligence lessons and traditional academic lessons. One such curriculum is the Child Development Project, created by a team directed by psychologist Eric Schaps (as cited in Solomon, 1988). The project supplies teachers with a prepackaged set of materials that fit into existing lesson plans. For example, first graders read the story, "Frog and Toad Are Friends", and then have a discussion about friendship and other issues that were raised in the story. Emotional lessons are also taught in the Child Development Project by encouraging teachers to rethink the way that they discipline students. An incident of misbehaving is an opportunity to teach children skills such as impulse control, explaining their feelings, and resolving conflicts.

Schaps (1988) evaluated the project and found that the students were more responsible, assertive, popular and outgoing, pro-social and helpful, considerate, and concerned. The students had better understanding of others, more pro-social strategies for interpersonal problem-solving, and better conflict-resolution skills.

In the New York City schools, Linda Lantieri has implemented the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (Goleman, 1995). This program was designed in response to a specific problem: violence. The purpose of this program is to teach children how to resolve schoolyard arguments before they escalate to life-threatening situations. Some students are trained as mediators. When tension erupts, students can seek out a mediator to help them settle it. Evaluation of this program by independent consultants (Metis Associates, Inc. 1990) showed less violence in class, fewer verbal put-downs in class, more caring atmosphere, more willingness to cooperate, more empathy, and improved communication skills.

Teaching children how to manage their emotional lives is critical for their success in and out of school. Daniel Goleman (1995) pooled the results of several emotional intelligence curricula and found widespread benefit for children's emotional and social competence, for their behavior in and out of the classroom, and for their ability to learn. Improvement in recognizing and naming emotions, understanding emotions, and recognizing the difference between feelings and actions was found among all the curricula. Also found was better frustration tolerance and anger management; fewer verbal put-downs, fights, and classroom disruptions; increased ability to express anger appropriately, without fighting; fewer suspensions and expulsions; less aggressive or self-destructive behavior; more positive feelings about self, school, and family; better stress-management; and less loneliness and social anxiety. Increased empathy was found across the curricula - students were better able to take another person's perspective, improved empathy and sensitivity to others' feelings, and better at listening to others. Students were also better at handling relationships - more sharing, more assertive in communication, more popular and outgoing, more friendly, more pro-social, more democratic, and better at resolving conflict and negotiating disagreements. The results from the curricula Goleman examined indicate that emotional literacy programs improve children's academic achievement scores and school performance.


Emotional literacy expands our vision of the task of schools themselves, making them more explicitly society's agent for seeing that children learn these essential lessons for life. We must step back, examine our schools, and ask ourselves if we really are preparing our children for life. Emotional intelligence is the master ability, the meta-ability that leads to success in all areas of life. Emotional intelligence curricula teach out of the owner's manual for the emotional life of children. These are fundamental lessons that have been ignored too long and must now be taught in every school to every child.


Elias, M.J. and Weissberg, R.P. (1990) "School-Based Social Competence Promotion as a Primary Prevention Strategy: A Tale of Two Projects," Prevention in Human Services, 7, 1, pp. 177-200.

Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Metis Associates, Inc., (1990) The Resolving Conflict Creatively Program: 1988-1989. Summary of Significant Findings of RCCP New York Site. New York: Metis Associates.

McCown, K., and Dillehunt, H. (1978) Self Science: The Subject Is Me. Santa Monica: Goodyear Publishing Co.

Rosenthal, R. (1977) "The PONS Test: Measuring Sensitivity to Nonverbal Cues," in P. McReynolds, ed., Advances inPsychological Assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Salovey, P. and Mayer, J. "Emotional Intelligence", Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9, 3, pp. 185-211.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., and Peake, P. "Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-regulatory Competencies From Preschool Delay of Gratification," Developmental Psychology, 26, 6 (1990), pp. 978-86.

Solomon, D. (1988) "Enhancing Children's Prosocial Behavior in the Classroom," American Educational Research Journal, Winter, 1988.