Emotional Literacy is a multi-faceted skill which is becoming more important to the success of our students, and while several best-sellers about this subject have hit mainstream reading circles in the last several years, emotional IQ can still seem rather vague. This concept was first used in literary criticism by Van Ghent in 1961, and was explored as a combination of personal, social, and multi-intelligences by Howard Gardner in 1993. Through their work on this topic in the last fifteen years, psychology professors John D. Mayer at the University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey at Yale University have defined Emotional Literacy as “the capacity to reason about emotions…to enhance thinking” with the goal of regulating emotions “so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth” (1997).
In the effort to better outline the construct of Emotional Literacy, a 'Four-Branch Ability Model' was developed to identify the key quadrants of focus: perceiving, facilitating, understanding, and managing emotions. The ability to demonstrate these aptitudes was then created through a tool of measurement called the MSCEIT, or the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test. By answering a series of questions, this test rates the emotional intelligence of individuals who choose the correct answers in a written exam—which is obviously quite different from identifying and applying appropriate emotions in the context of real-life situations. Daniel Goleman extends these ideas in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, asserting that Emotional Literacy is twice as important as traditional IQ. Goleman further chronicles his journey of discovery in this field by connecting emotions with learning, stressing the importance of teaching Emotional Literacy to children, examining the effects that this work has in education:
"Foremost among these was the idea that schools should teach emotional literacy along with regular academic subjects. While I was writing Emotional Intelligence, I pursued this idea with a group including Eileen Growald and Tim Shriver. In 1993 we co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, headed by Roger Weissberg, which began at the Yale Child Studies Center, and then moved to the University of Illinois at Chicago…The Collaborative has catalyzed the SEL movement, so that programs in these life skills are now commonplace in thousands of schools around the world. Just as important, careful research evaluations are showing that SEL not only improves children’s social and emotional abilities, but also lowers risks like violence, substance abuse, and unwanted teen pregnancies, while making kids better behaved and more positive about learning. Most impressively, academic achievement scores improve by an average 12 to 15%." (http://www.danielgoleman.info/biography/)
Currently, elementary teachers in the Catholic schools of Brooklyn and Queens are learning a five-step process of teaching vocabulary through “Emotional Literacy in the Classroom,” a pilot program developed by Dr. Marc Brackett at the Health, Emotion, and Behavior Laboratory of Yale University. This curriculum defines Emotional Literacy as “…the knowledge associated with Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating emotions,” coined the RULER model (Brackett & Rivers, 2008) which has been highlighted in the recent PBS special, This Emotional Life.
At the “heart” of Emotional Literacy is the idea that developing a fundamental awareness of human relationships—and how they impact every angle of a situation—leads to improved academic outcomes and student/teacher happiness.
Recommended Resources for Further Understanding:
Five Minds for the Future, by Howard Gardner
The Soul of Education, by Rachael Faye Kessler
A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink
The Developing Mind, by Daniel Siegel
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