As mentioned in my previous post, I am utilising my blog as a reflective tool for my Learning from Life placement. My placement is based in an integrated mainstream and special school and I have had the opportunity to work with the pastoral team over the past two weeks to begin my work experience.
Working with the pastoral team has allowed me to experience a wide variety of tasks including safeguarding, interagency practice, working with parents and early intervention, to working with children in order to gather information and promote health and wellbeing. Although a lot of my learning has been through observation and professional dialogue, I have been responsible for:
- Researching and creating a display to support the implementation of a packed lunch policy.
- Analysing attendance and lateness data to create a spreadsheet to compare trends and support early intervention.
- Planning activities for mainstream pupils to highlight the safeguarding team and cyber-bullying procedures.
- Creating a display to celebrate pupil success.
- Assisting and conducting nurture sessions during break and lunchtime.
- Planning British Values project for the School Council.
All of these activities have made a significant contribution to my understanding of health and wellbeing and gathering and analysing information. However the key learning that I believe has had the most influence on my educational philosophy is that gained through observing and independently conducting ELSA sessions.
ELSA stands for ‘emotional literacy support assistant’ and is a one to one strategy to promoting emotional literacy and developing emotional intelligence within pupils.
Intelligence versus Emotional Intelligence
Intelligence can be defined as the capacity to learn from experience, using metacognitive processes to enhance learning, and the ability to adapt to the surrounding environment. There are many theorists who have contributed to this field of study and have changed our perception of what it is to be intelligent. In early developments in intelligence research, it was seen that intelligence was a single entity that was determined by how well an individual faired in academia. Indeed, Gardner (1993) stated “In the heyday of the psychometric and behaviorist eras, it was generally believed that intelligence was a single entity that was inherited; and that human beings – initially a blank slate – could be trained to learn anything.” However, more recent studies of intelligence have demonstrated that intelligence is more than just academic and take individual skills and learning styles into consideration.
Gardner was one of the most influential theorists to introduce the idea of individual cognitive components and Smith and Smith (1994) described him as the paradigm shifter. His theory of multiple intelligences demonstrated that in addition to the areas of intelligence that had already been identified prior to his research, there were also factors that took social nature and physical ability into account. Gardner identified 8 types of intelligence: visual, linguistic, logical and mathematical, musical, bodily and kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic intelligence.
- Visual intelligence incorporates an individual’s ability to visualize, recognize and memorize images and their understanding of spatial awareness, or their creativity and eye for detail. A visually intelligent person may be a visual learner and use pictures and diagrams to assist them to learn.
- A linguistically talented person has sensitivity to written and spoken language; they are able to learn languages and apply this to accomplish certain goals. Gardner considered authors, poets, lawyers and speakers to have a high level of linguistic intelligence.
- Logical intelligence is similar to the intelligence tested in formal IQ tests and is most commonly associated with mathematical and scientific thinking. It takes an individual’s ability to analyze, formulate and organise information, in addition to mathematical ability.
- Musical intelligence is quite simply an individual’s ability to recognize, respond to and produce music/sound.
- Similarly, as the name suggests, bodily and kinesthetic intelligence is concerned with a person’s physical ability. A kinesthetically intelligent person learns by manipulating materials to formulate answers.
Interpersonal, Intrapersonal and Naturalistic intelligence focuses more on the social element of psychology which formal IQ testing does not incorporate.
- A naturalistic individual is in touch with nature and understands about the environment
- Interpersonal intelligence is how a person forms relationships with people and their ability to communicate with others such as their ability to negotiate and hold discussions with others.
- Intrapersonal is the knowledge about one’s self. An ‘intrapersonally’ intelligent person will understand their feelings and emotions.
These final two categories of intelligence defined by Gardner, make up, what we would now refer to as, emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence, by definition is ‘the intelligent use of emotions’. Goleman is a key theorist regarding emotional intelligence and when comparing his theory against Gardner’s multiple intelligences, there is a clear link between the two.
Self-awareness Awareness of others
Self-management Relationship management.
Goleman identified five key ingredients that contribute to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation.
Within ELSA, pupils can be supported with emotional awareness, social skills, friendship skills, self-esteem and anger management – similar to the emotional competencies identified by Goleman. In order to teach these competencies, known as emotional literacy, pupils need to expand their emotional vocabulary and develop emotional awareness. This is taught through planned sessions using games, stories, pictures, puppets and role-play etc.
However despite these ELSA sessions being planned with specific intentions, the key principle that permeates emotional literacy support is the ability to talk and discuss how certain situations in your life are making you feel and putting the emotional competencies into real life situations.
However, these circumstances can be difficult to discuss when children are put in a formal situation with lots of directed questions. The most effective way, I have observed, in gaining information, is establishing a safe, comfortable environment, where the pupils feel free to share what they are thinking. Play and practical activities provide the perfect atmosphere to do so. Furthermore, the child should be prompted with related questions, rather than asking direct questions about the child’s circumstances. For example, when playing with Lego in an ELSA session, the teacher may ask, “Do you play with Lego at home?” followed by, “What do you like doing at home?” or “Who do you like playing with at home?” These questions often trigger the child to discuss problems or things that concern them.
Other strategies I have observed during my placement that support pupils with additional needs include nurture groups, such as gardening club or arts and crafts clubs at break or lunch.
How has ALL of this impacted on my Educational Philosophy?
I think the most important thing that I have learnt from these two weeks is that children need to be heard. When children feel like they are not being listened to or are desperate for attention and nurture, their immediate reaction is usually to behave unusually. This may be disruptive behaviour or contrastingly introverted behaviour. However in the cases that I have observed, these have been due to a want for talk and time with an adult.
Consequently now I would aim to observe changes in behaviour, and perhaps record these (like the school does) in order to track and monitor pupils who may require additional time. I will assure pupils that I am always available to talk and I will try to find time for pupils, who do require some support, to play during lunch or break, and discuss their circumstances with me in a relaxed environment.
I will now consider appropriate prompting questions and practical activities to support these sessions. Any suggestions?