Does emotional intelligence affect exam success?

Does emotional intelligence affect exam success?

A panel of experts gathered at the RSA, London, on 7 May to debate a hot topic in education; whether emotional intelligence affects educational attainment and could – and should – be taught in schools.

Chaired by Matthew Taylor, RSA Chief Executive, the event brought together a panel of speakers – including: David Chaytor MP; Professor John Bynner, Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences in Education at the London Institute of Education; and Jackie Beere OBE, Author, Former Headteacher and Educational Consultant.

There is a lot of interest in students' emotional and social abilities – their ‘emotional intelligence’ – as well as their conventional intelligence.  Many UK schools, both at primary and secondary level, are involved in Government-backed initiatives such as the DCSF’s Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) programme.  SEAL aims to develop some of these skills in students with the overall aim of improving not only behaviour but also educational attainment.

The event followed a recent study by Cambridge Assessment which found that certain aspects of emotional intelligence – in particular self-motivation and low impulsivity – can lead to higher attainment at GCSE.

Speaking at the event, Dr K V Petrides, Reader in Psychology & Assistant Director, UCL (where he has set up the London Psychometric Laboratory), said: “This is the largest study that has been conducted in the area, ever.  I am absolutely convinced now that trait emotional intelligence is related to performance at school. Now is the time to take research evidence and apply it to the intervention programmes that are being rolled out in schools.”

Dr Kathyrn Ecclestone, Professor in Education at Oxford Brookes University, commented: “I’m really pleased that this debate is happening. However, it’s also an abdication for me of the idea that we can inspire people through subject knowledge – learning something really meaningful and deep, not learning about 'myself and my capabilities'.”

Other respondents included: Felicity Martin, Headteacher, Eggars School, Alton; Tim Oates, Group Research & Development Director at Cambridge Assessment; James Park, Director, Antidote; and Sonia Sodha, Senior Researcher, Demos.

Below: Dr Joanne Emery of Cambridge Assessment comments on our study which investigated the relationship between emotional intelligence and performance in a wider range of GCSE subjects.  Also featured: a 4-minute film of highlights from the event at the RSA.

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