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Emotional Intelligence, Parenting and Education, Part 2 of Interview with Dr Karen Hansen

Yvette Vignando: Can you tell us more about the work that you’ve been doing with primary school students and teachers?  I understand you’ve been running some courses with teachers at a primary school in Melbourne?

Karen Hansen: Yes, the school has a very strong leadership team who are very committed to a holistic approach to education; they’re very committed to the social and emotional development of their students in addition to the traditional sort of cognitive development.  

We’re doing a lot of training around emotional intelligence and developing it in staff as a first step so teachers are role models.  We’ve done work on developing emotional intelligence as a way of building resilience and managing stress in the workplace and we’ve worked with the leadership team around developing EI to enhance leadership effectiveness.  We’ve also done training on understanding emotional development in children and how to recognise and asses and develop EI competencies in primary-aged children.  So they’re helping us develop an assessment tool for that age group and that will become part of the regular assessment for their students.  

Do you have a view on the idea that the emotional readiness of a child for school might be even more important than their cognitive or intellectual readiness?


Yes. The thinking is that our emotions are actually really important for learning; emotion actually drives our attention.  It determines what we attend to and what we don’t; our attention is obviously critical for learning, for forming memory, for problem solving etc.  So if we don’t have fairly well-developed emotional competencies it actually makes it really difficult for us to learn.  Once a student is actually in a learning environment, if they have emotional competencies to maximise their learning then young children are actually really primed for taking in information and processing information; that’s really when you can start to build up these cognitive capacities.

If a child is not ready for school from a social and emotional perspective then regardless of what their entry IQ is, they’re not really in an optimal place to be learning.  School’s a very social place, it’s about interacting with people and connecting with people and forming and maintaining relationships and it’s also about being emotionally ready to learn - to know where to direct your attention - to be able to regulate emotion in a different environment.  

So to put it in its most simplistic terms, if a child can’t sit still in class, follow a series of commands or perhaps respond to some light disciplinary comments about how to behave with another child, they’re going to have trouble learning anything academic anyway?


Sure, and it disrupts everyone else as well so the impact is on not just that child’s ability to learn, but also the other children in that class.  The distracted behaviour takes away the attention of the teacher and it’s very time consuming.