How Do You Want Your Students to Feel? Emotional Intelligence Tip for Teaching | Joshua Freedman | 4 Min Read

Setting a clear intention about emotion improves learning. How do we do that as teachers/trainers/facilitators? In the way-back machine, I studied acting and learned that an audience felt an actor’s intention — even without words. The script might say, “I don’t want any cookies,” but the director might tell you, “actually you want the cookies a lot… your intention is to get them!” When an actor has that intention, even though it’s hidden inside, the audience can tell. 

Sometime later, as a teacher, I found much the same:

When I was clear on my intention, students understood better.

How can we apply the same logic to clarity about emotions? It starts with one of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves as educators: How do I want my students to feel?

Researchers in social neuroscience emphasize the power of utilizing emotion to facilitate learning. But as a classroom teacher or a corporate trainer  . . . or as a parent working to help my child learn better . . . how do I actually do this?

In the Six Seconds learning philosophy, we identify learning as a process of change, and so we use the Change MAP as a framework to design learning as a transformational process. While I’ve written before about that structure, I didn’t highlight the all-important RED LINES:

In each phase, the red lines show the emotional transition required to build the energy needed to move forward in that phase. Without that emotional engagement, the change process stalls. The same is true for learning.

How emotion improves learning… Follow the Map!

In the ENGAGE phase, at the start of a lesson or module, we have practical goals: Orient the learners. Activate prior knowledge. Wake up their brains and prepare them for forming new neural connections.

Of course, cognition isn’t enough. We need them to feel engaged too! You can see the red arrow in this phase goes from frustration toward excitement. If they start deep in the abyss of frustration, they’re not suddenly going to be bouncing on the edge of their seats . . . so we need to move a little way toward excitement. Toward passion, joy, fun, wonder, and a sense of possibility.

As educators, we can facilitate that shift by engaging our own emotions. What about this topic is wonderful?…

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Joshua Freedman

Joshua Freedman, CEO, Six Seconds, is one of the pioneers in the field of emotional intelligence; he cofounded Six Seconds in 1997, is the bestselling author of At the Heart of Leadership and five other books and six validated psychometric assessments on EQ, and contributor to many EQ programs including Coaching Equity Essentials. He’s also an instructor at Columbia Teachers College SPA administrative credential program; he is cocreator of the world’s largest social emotional learning program, POP-UP Festival ­— in partnership with UNICEF World Children’s Day, bringing skills for emotional wellbeing to millions of children & adults in 200+ countries.