While the concept of emotional intelligence has been around for quite a while, it wasn’t until Daniel Goleman wrote the best seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ that the term became widely popularized.
Here’s a sneak preview of some headlines that you’ll see in the next few months: teaching kids to be more emotionally and socially competent boosts their academic achievement. More precisely, when schools offer students programs in social and emotional learning, their achievement scores gain around 11 percentile points.
In the era of No Child Left Behind, where schools are rated on how well their students score on these tests, that’s a huge advantage for individual students and schools alike. And the gains are biggest in “at risk” kids, the bottom ten percent who are most likely to fail in their education.
That meta-analysis revealed that students improved on every measure of positive behavior, like classroom discipline, liking school, and attendance – and went down on rates for every anti-social index, from bullying and fights to suspensions and substance abuse. What’s more, there was a drop in numbers of students who were depressed, anxious, and alienated. And all these gains were in as impressive a range as those for academic achievement.
In recent years, people involved in the study and practice of leadership development have recognized the importance of fostering emotional intelligence skills. Managers who are not in tune with themselves and their reports will often have a more difficult time exercising effective leadership.
It’s not really a huge leap to assume that the same concepts may apply to children learning. Now the Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning has provided us with the research to substantiate this through a significant study involving over 233,000 students across the country.
Goleman also writes:
Teaching students skills like self-awareness, managing distressing emotions and empathy makes them better learners, as Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, explained at the forum. He pointed to data showing that when the brain’s centers for distress are activated, they impair the functioning of the prefrontal areas for memory, attention and learning (a point I made in Chapter 19 of Social Intelligence). Social and emotional learning makes great sense, Davidson argues, because of neuroplasticity – the fact that repeated experiences shape the brain. The more a child practices self-discipline, empathy and cooperation, the stronger the underlying circuits become for these essential life skills.
I am currently involved in an exciting project at Northeast Maritime Institute where we are launching alternative high school maritime programs for at-risk youth in the US and internationally. A significant component of these programs will involve a sail training experience aboard our brigantine Fritha (right) or other sail training vessels. We believe that time aboard a tall ship, which can be an alien and challenging environment for young people, most often leads to increased self awareness and respect for self, others, ship and environment.
Anyone interested in the value and benefits derived from the sail training experience should read the research report, “The Characteristics and Value of the Sail Training Experience” conducted by The University of Edinburgh (June 2007) and sponsored by Sail Training International. (summary | download full report).
Being a product of a sail training program (visit The Tabor Boy Project), I am a firm believer in what these experiences can do to help adolescents make an effective transition to young adulthood.
Goleman ends his post with: “The more a child practices self-discipline, empathy and cooperation, the stronger the underlying circuits become for these essential life skills.” This captures the essential spirit of life aboard a tall ship and the sail training experience.
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