Conference Papers

A critical approach to Emotional Intelligence as a dominant discourse in education

This paper presents a critical analysis of Emotional Intelligence as a dominant discourse that outlines forms in which emotionality is conceptualised, managed, learnt and taught in the educative context. Ideas from poststructural and discursive theory are brought into discussion to shape the theoretical framework of this paper.
In the first part of the presentation is discusses the existence of a contemporary interest in emotional issues. Here is explained how the popularity gained by the ideas associated to Emotional Intelligence responds to political and governing purposes rather than scientific or humanistic interests. This point is developed through the exploration of the capacity of the Emotional Intelligence discourse to get associated to other influential discourses, which emerge, from the brain sciences or what Rose (1998) calls the psy discipline. As part of this argument, it is questioned its neutrality, its capacity to overcome the binary logic that dominates classic conceptualisations of emotions and its limited potential to introduce a paradigm shift in education.
The second part of this presentation explores the presence and negative implications of the Emotional Intelligence discourse within the context of education. For this purpose, this paper focuses on two elements that serve as examples to illustrate the emergency of the happiness industry (Davies, 2005) in education. These two elements are: the Emotional Intelligence measurement tools (e.g. ECI, EQ-i & MEIS/MSCEIT) and the Emotional Literacy programmes (e.g. SEAL). In addition, it is also critically examined the role that emotionality plays in shaping educators identities and practices and how it has been manipulated.
The final part provides an overview of the main critics to the Emotional Intelligence discourse and discusses key elements that need to be considered in order to develop alternative discourses that allow educators and students understand the emotional world differently.
Davies, W. (2005). The happiness industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being. London: Verso
Rose, N. (1998). Inventing Ourselves: psychology, power and personhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Menendez Alvarez Hevia, D. (2017) 'A critical approach to Emotional Intelligence as a dominant discourse in education', paper presented to The 13th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 29–30 June, viewed 13 August 2020, <>