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How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Enhance Teaching

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Emotional intelligence is a popular construct associated with business, education, health, and more recently sport. There is clear evidence to substantiate that emotional intelligence is beneficial for performance. A number of characteristics associated with emotional intelligence include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and relationship management. But how can we harness our emotional intelligence so that it enhances teaching practices?


The concept of self-awareness alludes to being aware of the situation around you and thinking beyond. Thinking beyond could also be termed ‘thinking outside the box’. Teachers who wish to enhance their performance levels must be self-aware. Self-awareness alludes to the emotion of oneself. Teachers should be in control of their emotions and demonstrate a great deal of awareness of their students. This can be developed through self-analysis of performance by identifying strengths and limitations.

There are a range of possibilities for teachers to develop their self-awareness further. For example, during feedback sessions, teachers should be aware of the emotions they are portraying to their students.

Teachers should be self-aware during lessons of their own performance levels and the impact this is having on the student body, for example:

  • Identify practices that enable you to become self-aware of your emotions (both positive and negative) as you experience these during teaching and learning.
  • Develop routines that allow you to enhance your own self-awareness when dealing with students.
  • Enhance awareness through utilising useful strategies that identify your own needs.


The ability to self-regulate is useful for successful teachers. It is the ability to maintain control during pressurised situations. These situations normally arise during behavioural situations in the classroom.

Effective self-regulation promotes balance between body and mind. One useful strategy to help develop effective self-regulation is through the practice of reflection. There are many occasions that require teachers to regulate their emotions. Examples include marking work, preparing for lessons, and the actual teaching and learning. Therefore, implementing strategies will enable teachers to evolve within professional practices, such as:

  • Identify positive and negative emotions during your teaching sessions. Compare and contrast the two emotions and list how you felt. Each time you feel negative, attempt to remember the positive times as this will help re-energise your thinking and mindset.
  • Develop strategies that provide opportunities to regulate your emotions through self-reflection. Find a quiet corner and examine yourself: e.g., what could I have done better? How will I develop a teaching strategy differently next time? Did I deal with students and provide sufficient answers?
  • Enhance ability to increase self-regulatory practices when you notice your emotions as you experience them or to understand your physical feelings as you feel the emotion coming on.


This is considered to be a major characteristic of good teaching. Motivation is an inner desire to achieve objectives that are set out, for example, when carrying out teaching sessions.

Maintaining motivation as a teacher and of your students is instrumental. Therefore, introduce action plans for all your students.

These actions should be set out as specific short-term targets throughout the academic year.

  • Identify targets early in the academic year and generate these targets into short-term specific outcomes.
  • Utilise actions for each student to enable their own motivation levels to be maintained and enhanced.
  • Develop strategies that provide opportunities for students to modify their targets.
  • Enhance opportunities that increase motivation levels when self-confidence is low.


Teachers high in emotional intelligence will understand their own students and themselves. Building empathy is crucial as understanding the needs of students and making each individual feel part of the set-up is important. Team cohesion is most effective when students all agree on the aims and objectives set out by the teacher.

  • Identify each student and understand what makes them the way they are through appraisal and identifying individual needs.
  • Develop discussions with performers on a regular basis.
  • Enhance strategies that will increase empathy. For example, introduce different scenarios to students so they can problem-solve these in smaller groups.

Relationship management

Relationship management is crucial for a teacher. Introduce relationship management with the use of various group-bonding exercises. A teacher can support their team and foster effective group dynamics through relationship management.

  • Identify opportunities to increase harmony among students during the academic year.
  • Develop situations that help enhance group dynamics. Introduce activities that promote effective relationships between students.
  • Enhance relationship management during each lesson and give responsibilities to different students.

Taken together, emotional intelligence is a useful concept. The benefits of emotional intelligence are evidenced in other domains and hold exceptional opportunities for teachers to utilise within their own practice. Each characteristic of emotional intelligence is flexible and therefore can be used interchangeably.

Gobinder Gill teaches psychology and research methods. 


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