Podcast: Building Emotional Intelligence Through SEL

Guest Biography

Dr. Marc Brackett is leading ground-breaking work in the field of social and emotional learning as Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. His research focuses on the role of emotional intelligence in learning, decision making, relationship quality, and mental health. He co-created RULER, an evidence-based, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) SELect Program. The RULER program is centered on the determination of best practices for bringing emotional intelligence into large organizations, the understanding of the influences of emotional intelligence training on student and educator effectiveness, bullying prevention, and school climate. Marc also is working with Facebook on a large-scale research project designed to both prevent and decrease online bullying. He is the author of 100 scholarly publications.

Marc serves on numerous research advisory boards, including CASEL, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, and the Greater Good Science Center. He regularly delivers keynote addresses, consults with school systems on integrating RULER, and works with corporations on best practices for incorporating emotional intelligence.

Podcast Highlights
Here are a few of the highlights from my conversation with Marc.

On the basics of RULER (3:00)
“RULER is an acronym that describes the skills of emotional intelligence. And those skills are recognizing emotion in self and others (that is the R), understanding the causes and consequences (that's the U), labeling emotion (L), expressing emotion (E) in healthy and appropriate ways, and then finally the last R is regulating emotion effectively. The RULER is that acronym that describes the five critical emotional intelligence skills.

And then what we've done over the last 15 years or more is built an approach, which we'll call RULER as well, to bringing emotional intelligence to schools. And essentially RULER is a set of tools. For example, there is a Mood Meter that helps build self-awareness and vocabulary around emotion. And there are other tools like the Meta Moment, which we call our tool for self-regulation, and other tools as well.”

On the Mood Meter and how it helps stimulate emotional intelligence (4:05)
“The Mood Meter is our signature tool for RULER and emotional intelligence. And we actually have an app now that people can download and use to build their awareness. It's just moodmeterapp.com. The Mood Meter is a tool built on emotion theory, and essentially asserts that our feeling space is the byproduct of two things. The first is kind of our appraisal of the environment; how pleasant or unpleasant is the environment that we're in. So you can think about it for kids, you know, when they walk into the school, are they unpleasant or pleasant? When you get home do you feel unpleasant or pleasant? And then the second dimension is energy, or activation, and that's kind of how much juice you have in your body. Are you feeling negative vibes, for example, and you're about to fall sleep, or plus vibes, where you feel activated?

And essentially what happens is that you cross the two axes, pleasantness and energy, to create these four quadrants: the yellow, the red, the blue, and the green. And briefly, yellow is for high-energy pleasant emotions, like you're excited or happy. Red is for high-energy unpleasant emotions, like anger or anxiety. The blue is for low-energy, unpleasant feelings, like down, disappointment, sadness. And the green is for calm, pleasant emotions, like tranquil, peaceful, and content . . . one thing we argue in our research, and also in our practices, is that if you can name it, you can tame it.”

On the research behind the effectiveness of RULER (10:05)
“We’ve done randomized, controlled trials, where we randomly assign schools to receive, or not receive, RULER. And we track student performance and the climate of schools longitudinally, and what we've shown in our studies is that schools that take this work seriously and implement it with high quality have students that just did better. They had better quality relationships, they made better decisions, and they performed better academically.”

On SEL and standardized curriculum (16:55)
“My big take-home is that until children feel positively in school, so they have positive emotions, all the standardized curriculum is not going to get implemented the way it's intended, because kids are always going to want to learn and be in class if they feel safe and valued and supported. So our feelings are that feelings come first, and then the academic piece comes second.”

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