Fueling My Sense of Urgency



Bridgeland, J., Bruce, M., & Hariharan, (2013). The Missing Piece: A National Teacher Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. Chicago: Author


In the report, “The Missing Piece”, Bridgeland, Bruce, M., & Hariharan (2013) present findings on teachers’ perspectives about social emotional learning in schools. The stated that emotional learning (SEL) “involves the processes of developing competencies, including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making” (p. 1). After examining 605 k-12th grade teacher surveys, the authors conclude that SEL is the solution to transforming our American youth.

The authors introduced the article by making a strong case for the importance of social emotional learning in schools. They argued that without it, “America risks a generation of talent, needlessly lost” (p. 11). They go on to say that equipping students with strategies to increase their social and emotional skills “can help solve key national challenges related to our education and workforce readiness” (p. 20). Furthermore, the American dream is at stake for our children. Clearly, the author’s theoretical framework was developed with the intention to convince policy makers, educators and educational stakeholders of the key ingredient (social emotional learning) that can solve many of the nation’s most salient struggles (p. 20).

Overall, the organization of the report was coherent and comprehensive. The article had several parts: an executive summary, an introduction, an overview, and an analysis of the three data trends. The majority of the report focused on the following three trends: Teachers reported favorable views regarding the importance of integrating social and emotional learning in schools, teachers saw social emotional learning as a contributor to student achievement and life success, and teachers identified natural ways to integrate SEL into their curriculums and community outreach programs. For each trend, the authors displayed graphs of the survey data along with a thorough analysis. The authors decorated each report page with convincing quotes from teachers and highlighted persuasive data findings that supported the case for SEL.

At the conclusion, in a section titled, “Paths Forward” (p. 37), the authors present nine recommendations. Similar to the other sections, the introduction stresses the urgency to ensure that SEL be taught and modeled in every school. They assert, “as a nation, we have the opportunity to change the lives of millions of American youth with the use of a very powerful strategy-social emotional learning” (p. 37). Their recommendations include ideas such as; incorporate SEL activities into the school curriculum, coordinate SEL competencies with community partners (including parents), provide professional development to the teachers, include SEL in district goals and standards, and be a federal policy advocate (p. 37-41).

The survey findings have many implications for contributing to the field of education. Teacher beliefs and values should be considered when important decisions are made around standards and curriculum. According to the surveys, teachers see social and emotional skills as driving forces for increased motivation. They reported, “academic, social, and emotional learning are inextricably linked, and SEL can accelerate student learning by increasing students’ intrinsic motivation to achieve, their ability to be attentive and engaged in their work, their satisfaction with learning, their sense of belonging, and their desire to work cooperatively” (p. 30). I found these teacher beliefs to be powerful. Interestingly however, thirty-two percent of teachers reported that their schools place very little emphasis on developing students’ social and emotional skills (p. 17). This tells us that despite teachers’ beliefs about the importance of SEL, if we see this as a need in our schools, we have to convince educational policy and stakeholders.

The authors supported the survey findings by citing other studies that yielded similar results. Some of the studies were ambiguous, leaving out pertinent details that would support the research credibility. I was often unclear of where the study came from and who conducted it. One example of this reads, “One research study shows that among one million students from grades five to twelve, positive emotions such as hope, well-being, and engagement account for 31 percent of the variance in students’ academic success” (p. 20). This study seems fairly profound and convincing, but I was left with questions and skepticism.

Furthermore, throughout the report, the authors presented the survey findings and created statements that seemed to exaggerate the truth. For example, the authors made claims that SEL can have many positive effects on students, including boosting academic performance, increasing student interest in learning, improving student behavior, reducing bullying and improving a school climate. Although this may be true, the surveys that were used to generate this report only included teacher responses.

I was most interested in reading the specific data findings from the report. I wanted to hear the authentic, un-interpreted teacher opinions and beliefs. Teachers are the most important stakeholders, as they are the ones who make the biggest impact in our schools. Most teachers (93%) felt that social and emotional learning should be part of the school experience. Of all the teachers surveyed, ninety-five percent noted that social and emotional skills are teachable. Nearly all teachers (97%) reported that these skills would benefit all students.

The authors chose to break some of the data down further by isolating certain variables. For example, teachers that work in high needs schools (60% or more free and reduced lunch) were more likely to endorse the need for SEL instruction (p. 18). Another way that the findings were broken down was by grade level. Shockingly, only 42% of the high school teachers reported that SEL should be taught during the high school years. Unfortunately, the authors didn’t elaborate on this particular finding. This was not surprising.

Reflecting on the implications for humanizing, access, and equitable education research, I think the teacher survey findings are insightful and should have implications for our schools. Our schools should be preparing children to be more self-aware, develop healthy relationships, and equip them with strategies to make responsible decisions. The report was convincing and only fueled my sense of urgency to get started.

Equipping Students to Persevere in spite of Uncertainty

I have facilitated countless professional developments for our iTeachAZ Site Coordinators, mentor teachers and teacher candidates, and one question that I always ask when I am beginning a session on teaching is, “when you walk out of a lesson that you deem to be effective, what elements have led you to that decision?” Nearly every time I ask that question, participant responses include things like…lessons should be appropriately challenging or students should be a little uncomfortable. These responses, although I am in agreement with them, have always puzzled me. How do you measure the appropriate amount of discomfort or challenge without losing the students’ motivation to stay involved in the lesson? How do we equip students to have the tools necessary to persevere in spite of their desire to want to give up when solving difficult tasks?

In ‘Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity”, Jordan et al. conducted a qualitative study on fifth graders. The study focused on collaborative groups and the role that the groups played in how students responded to content and uncertainty while working on engineering projects. They explain, “Managing uncertainty refers to behaviors an individual engages in to enable action 
in the face of uncertainty. Uncertainty is a regularly occurring experience for humans. Although it is often a difficult experience to manage, it is not inherently
an aversive state. Individuals are often motivated to reduce uncertainty through various information-seeking strategies” (P.5). Jordan et al. describes that uncertainty (or what I described above as appropriate challenge/discomfort) is a feeling and our natural response is to try to minimize it. Furthermore, they imply that there are strategies that can equip students to persevere and not let the feelings of uncertainty result in mismanagement.

In the study, Jordan et al. emphasize the importance of relationships and the key role that they play in supporting students to work through their uncertainty (P. 7). They describe various responses that students had while working on the engineering project. They observed interactions amongst the collaborative groups and examined the influence that the collaborative peers had on one another. During one observation, the authors observed a student who wasn’t able to articulate her uncertainty. They noticed that one of the group members began to question, challenge, and explain information to this student to assist her in articulating the uncertainty. The authors noted, “For this peer response to occur, 
a responder had to believe the uncertainty being expressed by his or her peer was at a minimum legitimate, warranted, or reasonable” (P. 20). This response by the authors implies that students need to have the ability to empathize or see things from a different perspective in order to respond appropriately and support their peers. In this instance, for example, what would’ve happened if the peer didn’t have empathy? What effect would that have had on her ability to move forward and persevere with the project?

Empathy, which is an emotional intelligence competency, allowed the peers to respond by willingly supporting the student who was struggling. Jordan et al. echoes this idea and states, “students’ success at managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving was dependent on the willingness and ability of their peer collaborators to respond supportively. As students received responses from peers, those responses
 acted as negative or positive feedback for subsequent attempts to manage uncertainty” (P. 26). The authors go on to further describe groups that did not have supportive peers and the effects that it had on the group members. They labeled these groups as “not particularly well-functioning” (P. 28).

Reverting back to the question about equipping students with the necessary tools to persevere in spite of uncertainty, it’s clear from the study that cooperative learning played a critical role in students’ perseverance with completing engineering projects. One would argue, however, that the group members, who lacked the emotional intelligence to empathize and support their peers, had an adverse effect on the students’ ability to move forward with the project.

Daniel Goleman (1995) first introduced the idea that one’s social skill, or emotional intelligence (EI), is a great contributor to relational success. There are several competencies that fall under the umbrella of EI including self-awareness, emotional management, empathy, and social competence. Further, Low and Nelson (2006) explain EI as a “learned ability to understand, use, and express human emotions in healthy and productive ways” (P. 2). Both Goleman and Low agree that these skills need to be taught and developed. As I conclude, it would seem that peer influence can be an effective tool, when the students are equipped with the emotional intelligence competencies to support their peers.


Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ for character, health, and lifelong achievement. New York, NY: Ban- tam Books.

Jordan, M.E. & McDaniel, (in press). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences. Doi: 10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

Low, G. R., & Nelson, D. B. (2006). Emotional Intelligence and college success: A research- based assessment and intervention model. In Center for Education Development & Evaluation (CEDER) Retrieved from Texas A&M University-Kingsville website: 1-10. http:// www.operamentis.com/upload/O/EI_and_ College_Success-2006.cederpaper.pdf


Emotional Intelligence Competencies Can Be Developed

Pool, Lorraine Dacre, and Pamela Qualter. “Improving Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Self-efficacy through a Teaching Intervention for University Students.” Learning and Individual Differences 22.3 (2012): 306-12. Web.

 Many researchers argue that emotional intelligence plays a significant role in our attitudes, health, well-being, and professional success (P. 306). If this is true, why don’t k-12 schools and colleges create and implement curriculums that support the development of these skills? “As undergraduate students are gaining qualifications, knowledge and skills to prepare them for future lives in the world of work, it would make sense to ensure they are also equipped with knowledge and skills in relation to emotional functioning and with the confidence to enable them to act on these abilities” (P. 306) This study investigates whether it is possible to improve levels of emotional intelligence and emotional self-efficacy in university students through a teaching intervention (P. 307).

Pool et al. hypothesize that “both ability EI and ESE appear to be important predictors of academic success and graduate employability; theoretically, it should also be possible to improve them” (P. 307). Therefore, they designed a study to investigate whether or not it’s possible to improve levels of emotional intelligence and emotional self-efficacy. Using university students, the authors studied the impact that an eleven-week intervention class had on the participants’ EI and ESE competency levels.

The organization of the article is clear, coherent and logical. The article begins with an introduction, which is broken down into subsections. The subsections include the following headings: the importance of EI and ESE (laying the foundation for the importance of emotional intelligence and emotional self-efficacy), Designing EI/ESE teaching interventions (describing the interventions and assessments), and the present study (explaining who the participants were). Following the introduction was the methods section. Again, the authors broke it down into subsections: Participants, Measures, EI Intervention, and Procedure. Throughout this section, the authors provided detailed descriptions of the study. Next, the authors included the findings and discussions section. In the discussion section, the authors reflected on what they learned, acknowledging that there were some limitations of the study.

Prior to conducting this study, there was very little research regarding the ability to improve in EI and ESE. One study that the authors had investigated did not result in any improvements for the participants (this study consisted of a four-week intervention). Therefore, Pool et al. designed their intervention to take place over 11 weeks and found that the intervention resulted in significant participant growth in EI and ESE. The results implicate that people needed a longer period of learning and reflection in order to develop their emotional understanding abilities. These findings should have significant implications to our k-12 schools and universities and what we value as curriculums.

It was evident that the authors performed extensive research on EI and ESE as well as investigating the studies that had already been conducted. During the introduction and throughout the article, they included research for every variable within their study. When designing this particular study, the authors built on the work Nelis et al. (2009).

They began by designing the intervention (based on the Salovey and Mayer Four Branch Model of ability EI) for the study and identifying the pre and post assessments (EI (MSCEIT) and ESE (the Emotional Self Efficacy Scale). Their study included a larger sample size than the study conducted by Nelis et al. Additionally, they included both males and females from diverse academic concentrations. The study also included a control group.

The intervention class was offered to all students as an elective. The class was two hours per week and was eleven weeks in length. “Students completed the MSCEIT and ESES during the first class and were given a report and detailed one-to-one feedback of their results. They were asked to reflect on their results and incorporate these reflections in their first journal entry. The tests were repeated in the final class” (P. 308).

Throughout the class, the teachers implemented various activities including, “mini-lectures, video clips, case studies, group tasks and discussions, role play and an off-campus visit to an art gallery” (P.308). Students were asked to keep a reflective journal as well as respond to essay prompts and case studies.

The findings were positive. After the 11 weeks, participants showed growth in emotional self-efficacy and some aspects of emotional intelligence ability. When measured against the control group as well as their pre-assessments, the intervention group showed significant improvement.

While presenting the findings, the authors noted several limitations of the study. They stated, “one limitation of this study is the reliance on data gathered from a single source, the participants themselves. The use of multiple source methods, possibly including peer ratings of EI pre and post- intervention, would engender greater confidence in the findings” (P. 311). Another limitation included the teachers/tutors that taught the intervention. Because the teachers/tutors play an instrumental role, their EI and ESE need to be considered when making teacher selections.

“Previous research has suggested that higher levels of ability EI and ESE are desirable for a number of important reasons associated with work-related outcomes, academic achievement and graduate employability, but until now there have been few studies that demonstrate it is possible to increase levels of EI and ESE through teaching or training” (P.306). Through this study, we can conclude that it is possible to improve EI ability. The results of this study also show that it is possible to increase a person’s self-efficacy. These findings have significant implications for how we should be teaching and training our elementary, middle school, high school and college students.



Nelis, D., Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., & Hansenne, M. (2009). Increasing emotional intelligence: (How) is it possible? Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 36–41, doi:10.1016/j.paid2009.01.046.


The Case For Emotional Intelligence in a Teacher Preparation Program


Rojas, Michelle. (2012) The Missing Link: Emotional Intelligence in Teacher Preparation

(Doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University).


In this dissertation study, Rojas (2012) studied two teacher candidates going through their teacher preparation program, specifically focusing on the development of their emotional and social skills. Her research question was, “How, and to what extent, does the implementation of the Six Seconds (Know Yourself, Give Yourself, Choose Yourself) model with teacher candidates in a master’s program in a high-needs urban middle school impact emotional intelligence and teacher satisfaction?”

Throughout the study, Rojas makes the case for emotional intelligence and how it’s a missing link in teacher preparation.“Fernandez-Berrocal, & Brackett (2008) argued that “teaching is considered to be one of the most stressful occupations” (p. 441) and training in emotional competencies can support teachers in coping with stressful environments. Jennings and Greenberg (2008) found that a socially and emotionally competent teacher is most effective at working with students, yet both pre-service and in-service training programs do not emphasize this aspect of the profession. A socially and emotionally competent teacher is one who has a strong understanding of his/her emotions, successfully manages emotions, and is self-aware and empathetic. A socially and emotionally competent teacher utilizes these skills to cope with the demands of teaching” (p.4). Rojas stresses the emotional impact that teaching can have on teachers. Teachers need to develop an awareness of their own emotional intelligence, the strengths and deficits, so that they can grow.


Because this is a dissertation, the author organized the study through chapters. This organization was logical and coherent and allowed the reader to understand how the author narrowed her focus through various research cycles. There are six chapters with major headings and subheadings below them. Within each chapter, there are bold headings, which help the reader to preview the topic before reading. She begins by establishing the purpose of the study- through telling a story of a teacher who experiences burnout from the teaching profession. She goes on to cite scholarly research about emotional intelligence as well as the studies that have been conducted within the educational setting. She then explains her study by describing the design and the participants. The last three chapters elaborate on her data, outcomes and findings from the study. She concludes the dissertation with a story from a superintendent’s keynote speech at a teacher preparation graduation. The speaker emphasized the importance of being able to connect with kids and build relationships with them. This conclusion leaves the reader feeling passionate about the topic.

One thing that stood out to me about this study is the way the author writes. She used vocabulary that was easy to understand and she wrote like she was telling a story.

Contribution to the Field

This study presents a strong case for integrating emotional intelligence training into a teacher education program. The author emphasized the importance of teachers having the ability to build relationships. Rojas states, “There are noteworthy implications of this research for teacher education programs, including the following: (1) The role of university coursework in emotional intelligence development; (2) The role of the site coordinator; (3) The role of the mentor teacher; (4) The use of a performance assessment process for EQ; and (5) Differentiated coursework to address the unique role of the middle school teacher candidate” (120).

Literature Review, Theoretical Framework/Lens

The literature was organized under literature topic subheadings. Under each subheading, the author provided substantial research to support each topic. These subheadings were labeled as follows:

  • Emotional Intelligence/Social-Emotional Learning (describing what EQ is)
  • Foundations: Importance of Emotions and Teaching (why EQ matters in teaching
  • Teacher burnout (presenting data on teacher attrition)
  • Emotions and Students, Middle school & high school children
  • EI, Emotional Regulation Ability (ERA) and Measuring Emotion.

Some of the most salient ideas that stood out to me from the research involved the link between emotional intelligence and a teacher’s self-efficacy. Additionally, countless research substantiated the claim about the nature of the teaching profession, and how teachers needs to be equipped with the necessary tools to manage their emotions.

Data Collection

The author combined quantitative and qualitative techniques to perform the study. The study spanned over 12 weeks and focused on two teacher candidates. She notes, “In the master’s program, there were two teacher candidates who met the criteria and, as a result, were selected as the two participants for the study. The rationale for selecting this grade level was based on literature that asserted that the highest levels of burnout and emotional stress occurred with teachers who worked with adolescents. The candidates were in the second semester of a two-semester accelerated teacher education program” (p. 29).

One area that stood out to me as a possible area for improvement was the amount of teacher candidates who were involved in this study. Two students is a very small sample size and it seems as though it would be difficult to form conclusions and recommendations from this.

The Quantitative measures included: the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment (SEI360) and a Pre/Post Teacher Satisfaction Scale (TSS). The Qualitative measures included a participant journal; Six Seconds training transcripts, SEI360 open-ended responses, researcher observations, and 1:1 semi- structured interviews.


At the conclusion of her study, Rojas conducted an analysis of the data and created three assertions. She explained that emotional intelligence could be impacted if the three assertions are implemented. “Assertion 1–Emotional intelligence development starts with a commitment to change. Then, the SEI360 and KCG journal become valuable tools for impacting emotional intelligence development. Assertion 2–To develop emotional intelligence, teacher candidates must have the opportunity to continuously apply new skills and receive feedback in an environment conducive to EQ development. Assertion 3–The pursuit of a noble goal is critical to the application of all other emotional intelligence competencies” (86-117).


Rojas found that her findings coincided with the research- there is “a critical need for emotionally intelligent educators and warns of the consequences of ignoring the role of emotions in the teaching profession. Researchers in emotions and teaching argue that “teaching is considered to be one of the most stressful occupations” (Palomera, Fernandez-Berrocal, & Brackett, 2008, p. 441) and teachers who are emotionally exhausted are at the greatest risk of burnout (Evers, Tomic, and Brouwers, 2005)” (p. 113).


Rojas, Michelle. (2012) The Missing Link: Emotional Intelligence in Teacher Preparation (Doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University).