Through a collaboration with world-leading researchers Swinburne University, Churchie is rolling out a groundbreaking new education program.

Emotional Intelligence, or EQ/EI, is defined as the ability to monitor one’s own as well as other people’s emotions, to differentiate between emotions, and to use this information to guide thinking and behaviour.

Today many psychologists believe that the standard measures of intelligence, such as IQ scores, are too limiting and don’t really identify the full extent of a human’s intelligence, and thus they see the value in EI observation and training.

The education system has traditionally focussed on IQ development, but Churchie (Anglican Church Grammar School) and Swinburne University are teaming up to develop methods for measuring and improving EI levels amongst school students.

Professor Con Stough, Swinburne’s Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, says his university is a leader in research on Emotional Intelligence. “We started off a long time ago looking at the workplace and how to measure the emotional intelligence of the workplace and how it relates to things like leadership, productivity and performance and so on.

“One massive gap, really, was measuring and developing emotional intelligence in schools. Organisations were telling us that they were happy to develop our employees, but really think this should have been done earlier. This should be done at school.”

It was around seven years ago that the collaboration between the university and Churchie began, rolling out the program initially in years 4 and 10, and spreading to the other grades as it developed. Churchie headmaster Dr Alan Campbell says the aim of the program ties in with the school’s overall mission. “At this school our mission has always been to develop the whole person,” he says. “We want to develop them academically, we want to develop them creatively and personally, we want to develop them as a sportsman and as an artist, we want to develop them as a musician.

“We are very, very keen to develop resilient young men, so our mission is really around the development of the whole person. People who have very good interpersonal, interrelation skills can get on well in teams and become effective members of the community.”

Currently Churchie is testing the EI program in grades 4, 5 and 6 as well as 8, 11 and 12 via a series of online surveys, with questions surrounding how different emotions are effected by a range of situations. “The younger boys might look at pieces of art or they might share a short story and they might predict how a character might feel in a certain situation,” Dr Campbell says, “so teachers are able to lead students through activities that encourage them to think about their broad range of feelings.

“We’ve also applied this thinking to leadership when we’re considering appointing leaders across the school for various roles.”

The program seems to be delivering successful results at Churchie, not only for the students, but also for their parents, who are involved throughout the learning process. “Parents have been delighted to receive broad, general information about the emotional growth of their sons,” Dr Campbell says, “and of course if more sensitive difficulties arise in that area we’ve got specialist services available, as most schools do.”

Churchie and Swinburne will continue to work together on the program, which Professor Stough says has helped find a direct correlation between emotional intelligence and issues such as bullying. “We found that in adolescence, kids with low EI were more likely to bully other kids,” he says. ”Interestingly, we found that kids with low EI were more likely to be victims of bullying as well.”

Dr Campbell, however, says Churchie has a different reason for committing to the program. “We aren’t using it to solve a crisis or solve a problem,” he says. “We didn’t develop it because we were worried about a significant bullying problem. We just felt that it aligned well with our desire to round out the whole person and deliver character.”

For more information about the emotional intelligence program, visit churchie.com.au.

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