Classroom with small group spaces.
Learning Environment

3 Ways Small Group Learning Builds Emotional Intelligence

Consider utilizing small group collaboration to spark engagement.

Designating areas in the classroom for group learning is a great way to increase student participation, and build their social and emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is defined by the ability to accurately assess other people’s emotions and behaviors. This skill is important because it enables people to form meaningful and productive relationships with others.

In the classroom, teachers can impart academic knowledge in conjunction with emotional intelligence by utilizing small group learning. Setting up designated seating areas in the classroom for small groups of students to work together, whether it’s for an art project or a class reading discussion, can have major social and emotional benefits.

Retired instructor Kelly Wood is an advocate of collaborative learning, having equipped her classroom with several small group learning areas. She said, “These independent spaces featured alternative lighting and seating, and provided a unique atmosphere for working, relaxing, reading or collaborating.” Wood said the small group spaces were often skills-focused to address one or more specific areas of need for a particular group of students.

The emotional gains of collaborative learning include:

  1. Self-awareness – When teachers take a step back from a direct instructional role, students are forced to decide among themselves who does what in order to complete an assignment. A group setting exerts a subtle pressure on the individual to cooperate and control impulses, so that the group can succeed as a whole. Additionally, it forces individuals to recognize the unique strengths they bring to the table.
  2. Empathy – The intimate dialogue of small group work fosters a social awareness in students. They learn to understand the needs and feelings of others, while appreciating similarities and differences among individuals and groups. Students learn how to maintain positive relationships with others.
  3. Motivation – Working together toward a common goal means all group members must contribute in order to succeed. Taking initiative is rewarded with positive feedback from teachers and peers. The social and academic rewards of a positive performance instills confidence and can motivate students to participate more in class, and potentially on a larger scale in their community and the world.

A quality learning space is one that is not only mentally stimulating and safe, but emotionally supportive as well. Emotionally intelligent students are more likely to positively engage in school, their communities, and the world.


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