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Mastering the subtleties of emotional quotient

THERE'S a notice pinned on our workroom door displaying a circle with the inscription "In case of stress, bang head here". It's an amenity I've yet to avail myself of. What I do need, however, is some sort of analgesic for acronym fatigue syndrome, or AFS to you and me.

Over and above my normal teaching load, I've been doing work for SQA, TAFLIN, TQFE and DITL. What's happened to me? I used to talk in sentences but now I join esoteric groups where conversation sounds like it's being read from the script of a jumble of Scrabble tiles. I have to stop, I know, but for now, just one more, EQ.

Emotional Quotient, as distinct from Intelligence Quotient, is recognised as an extremely strong indicator of future success. Much of the hard work on EQ has been done in America, but its precepts are well rehearsed here in business and in education. In business, it seems it's no longer enough just to be the boss, however well you lead.

We are talking team player now, and that is what's important. Nick in Survivor and Penny from Big Brother had some vital skills to offer as leaders but were probably expelled from their tribes because they were simply too bossy.

Nowadays a team player means someone with well-developed emotional intelligence who will take time to understand how the group functions best and be prepared to lead from within. In FE we have seen these changes in business ideology mirrored in a flatter management structure. More importantly, perhaps, it has changed the relationship between the lecturer and those we teach. The labels we have used over the past few years - student, customer, client, learner - reveal our attempt to negotiate these changes.

The lecturer is not, if he or she ever was, the authority, the fount of all knowledge, the boss, but instead a facilitator, an enabler, part of the team, and responsibilit for learning is undertaken by the learner. It sounds fine, but it's a big responsibility. How do we ensure that learners can cope? It's not enough for only lecturers to possess highly-developed emotional intelligence.

While we don't use the trendy term EQ in college, many full-time students do engage in modules that develop emotional intelligence but too often these are subsumed within or integrated with other modules, which obscures their importance. Yes, students in our college have a right to expect pastoral care, to know that there are student services and counsellors available to them, but surely it is logical to extend their responsibility for learning to include responsibility for emotional intelligence and to highlight the work they do which helps them develop such qualities?

Last year, one of the groups I taught had to list three challenges they would monitor and evaluate. One of the challenges was to be personal. Most were predictable - picking up a spider, mastering the computer, or painting the bedroom ceiling. Mike, though, came up with a big one: "To love myself". Breaking that down, working out goals that he could measure, was illuminating both for him and for me. What he was doing was recognising the importance of emotional intelligence and treating it as potential he could develop.

In FE we have always been in the business of developing potential - and that has always included EQ, however low-key its profile. There is an anonymous poem that all lecturers should memorise:

But of the best leaders

When their task is accomplished

Their work is done

The people all remark

"We have done it ourselves".

Now there's something potential headbangers can pin up on the inside of our workroom door.

Dr Carol Gow is a lecturer in media at Dundee College.

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