Emotional & Cultural Intelligence


Strategies to Empower Students in an Increasingly Globalized World

Emotional intelligence is a theory that, though first used in 1964, came into its own in the 1990s. At the outset of that decade, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer defined emotional intelligence as a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, discriminate among them, and use them to guide thinking and action (“Emotional Intelligence” Imagination, Cognition, and Personality 9.3: 185-211). As an international educator, I value the importance of diversity and am interested in understanding how emotional intelligence could be influenced by living abroad. How might living abroad, specifically as a child, help increase emotional intelligence?

An individual who grows up or spends their developmental years outside of their parents’ culture by, for instance, living in another country is known as a third-culture kid (TCK). Research and data collected on adult TCKs and adults who work abroad indicate two fascinating trends

  • TCK expatriates may be more culturally adaptable on international assignments than other expatriates  

  • TCK expatriates may be more adjusted to general life abroad than monocultural expatriates.

Researchers at the University of California in Riverside analyzed how a college study-abroad program could increase the cultural intelligence of first-time expatriates. Their study uncovered a positive correlation between cultural intelligence and emotional intelligence. Even adults who did not experience another culture as children still benefited from living abroad. There are some critical implications of these findings for teachers of students in the 21st century, particularly in the era of COVID-19, when learning may be taking place entirely online.   

With the advancement and integration of technology in teaching and learning, education has become more interconnected globally. As teachers integrate globalized educational practices, learners develop skills that increase their multicultural awareness, starting from an early age. Students integrate global perspectives and ideologies to arrive at well-balanced conclusions regarding the world’s issues as a whole. Learners need to be ready for the ever-changing and interconnected world by increasing their emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence. The following five teaching and learning strategies help increase students’ emotional and cultural intelligence.

1. Projects that focus on solving real-world problems: Learners who can work on their high-order thinking skills will develop the ability to increase their problem-solving skills, develop more empathy, and demonstrate more caring behavior. (Check out Project-Based Learning

2. Self-reflections: Learners should participate often in self-reflections to take ownership of learning, practice perseverance, and instill determination. Self-reflection allows the learners to hold themselves accountable for their areas of growth and celebrate their successes. 

3. Globally oriented units: Expose learners to other cultures worldwide by incorporating global themes and cultural understanding into units and topics covered within traditional standards. Allowing the students to understand how subjects are related to the broader global picture will increase their awareness and empathy.

4. Character education: Educators should model respect for diversity for learners within the school community.  Some values and social skills they might include are caring about other people, honesty, responsibility, and other essential traits for an upstanding citizen.
5. Diversity within the learning community: Stakeholders within the learning community should include people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. This includes the student body, educators, and administration. The local community can also collaborate to share their cultures through guest speakers, activities, and community events. Networking with other educators worldwide can also provide the ability to work collaboratively on a global scale.

According to Priyanka Gupta, globalization and education impact one another by preparing young people for success in a future during which their nations will grow increasingly interconnected. With globalization becoming an everyday reality, it is essential to increase students’ emotional and cultural intelligence.

Kristina Brimer, M.Ed

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