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Session 3: Emotional Intelligence

Lesson Overview

Emotional intelligence is a major predictor of leadership and success. When paired with technical skill and cognitive capacity, such as strength in computer coding, it can lead to excelling as a leader or teacher in the field.

Emotional intelligence includes the ability to know yourself and what motivates you, and to be able to modify your emotions (regulate them) in response to stressful situations. It also refers to being able to read the emotions and needs of others and provide support to others with whom you work. For some individuals it is developing the empathy or a sense of understanding for the learner that can be difficult to muster because as a teacher or peer mentor you have not personally struggled. (This is, of course, not always the case.)

Overall Motivations and Objectives

  • Students will understand how to evaluate and improve their own emotional intelligence
  • Students will use emotional intelligence to assist peer mentoring

Prerequisite Knowledge

To use this module, the following readings, activities, and reflections should be completed:


Preliminary Activities

Instructor Reflections

  • How do you use emotional intelligence when interacting with students in the classroom? Outside the classroom?
  • Do you find it easier to connect or empathize with some students because of common experiences? How can you use emotional intelligence to find greater understanding for all students?

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Lesson Plan


  1. Warm Up Activity (20 - 30 min)
  2. Discussion: Reactions to EI Self-Inventory (20 min)
  3. Activity: Emotional Intelligence Scenarios (20 - 30 min)
  4. Discussion: Why is Emotional Intelligence relevant to mentoring? (30 - 40 min)
  5. Break (10 min)
  6. DiscussionEmotional Intelligence and Self-Efficacy (45 - 50 min)
  7. ActivityCode Snippets (20 min)
  8. Review Assignments for Next Session
  9. Exit Feedback

Warm Up Activity (20 - 30 min)


Student feedback on the course indicates that discussion-heavy sessions should be preceded by an activity. Any activity can be used, but ideally should get students talking and primed for the discussions to come later. In this case, we chose a variant of the First Impressions game.  Depending on the size of the class, breaking into smaller groups can help save time.


First Impressions Exercise (20-30 min)
For: Warm Up
Materials Needed: None.
Instructions: Break the students up into groups of 5 or 6 students. Within each group, each student will invite anyone to give their very first impressions of them. For some students, this will be from the first session of the course, for others it will be an earlier meeting. Each student should hear one first impression of themselves, and give one first impression to another student.


  • Get students ready for discussion of emotional intelligence
  • Understand how others read your emotions and what persona you emanate

Discussion: Reactions to Emotional Intelligence Self-Inventory (20 min)


Students should have previously completed the Emotional Intelligence Self-Inventory.


  • What is emotional intelligence?
  • Why does it matter?


Prepare for the Emotional Intelligence and peer mentorship discussion.

Activity: Emotional Intelligence Scenarios (20 - 30 min)


Students are presented with several short scenarios relating to emotional intelligence. Students should write down their reactions to each, according to the prompts below. Afterward, students may be asked to voluntarily share some of their thoughts on these scenarios.


For each of the following scenarios consider these prompts:
  • What factor might be contributing to this situation?
  • How does this situation make you feel?
  • What might be the best way to react?

Sample emotional intelligence scenarios:
  1.  A student shows up late to an appointment. They seem flustered and unfocused. When you begin discussing some of the weak points in their work, they begin to cry.
  2. A student gets increasingly frustrated when listening to your feedback on her recent work. Eventually she has a hostile outburst, blaming your teaching skills for her difficulty with the assignments.
  3. A student appears to be less motivated and not taking the work as seriously. When you meet with her, she makes it clear that she does not feel challenged and can finish her work much faster than her classmates.


Practical experience with applying emotional intelligence to possible peer mentoring occurrences.

Discussion: Why is Emotional Intelligence relevant to mentoring? (30 - 40 min)


This discussion should engage students with the aspects of emotional intelligence they may need to work on to become successful peer mentors. Depending on the class, this discussion can run long. Consider discussing in small groups first, and as a full class at the end.


  • Which of the subcomponents of emotional intelligence do you think are most important for teaching or mentoring others? Why?
  • What are some exercises that would help one to develop emotional intelligence? Specify which component of emotional intelligence and why you think the exercise will help.
  • How would you know if you have strengths in emotional intelligence or have progressed in your emotional intelligence over time?


  • Students understand the need for emotionally intelligent peer mentors
  • Students understand how to increase their own emotional intelligence

Activity: Code Snippets (20 min)


Students gain practical experience by reviewing brief snippets of code. Have students form pairs and go through the Code Snippets handout looking for syntax and logical errors. Once all groups are done, have each pair explain what errors they found in one snippet and how they would explain the mistake to the student who wrote the code.


Handout: Code Snippets 2


Students gain proficiency and confidence in technical code review.


Common Issues

Emotional Intelligence is a huge topic with implications for many different aspects of the roles of mentors. Make sure they get the larger guiding principles and are reflecting on how to use that in their mentoring. Otherwise it becomes too abstract and nebulous.


For Students
  • First Code Review Assignment
    • Don't worry about commenting on every little mistake. Focus on the big picture and major mistakes.
  • Exit Feedback
    • Be honest and self-reflective, don’t worry about giving the responses you think the instructors want to hear.

Assessment, Debrief, and Looking Ahead


For each session, two types of feedback are collected. First, anonymous feedback collected immediately at the end of the session. While this may be done in any form, we chose to use simple index cards passed out at the end of the class deposited anonymously at the classroom exit as the students left. The benefit of this form of feedback is its immediacy - thoughts and feelings relating to the session are fresh in the students' minds. Students were instructed to write anything they felt like - or nothing at all.

The second type of feedback was an Exit Feedback Google Form which the students were asked to complete before Midnight on the day of the session. Sample Exit Feedback Form.


Students should complete the Reflection on Emotional Intelligence and Mentoring Roles

by writing answers to the following prompts:

  • Serving as a mirror - will this be difficult or easy for me?

  • Serving as a coach - will this be difficult or easy for me?

  • Reflecting on emotional intelligence, where might I need to practice/grow?

  • Thinking about the 10 minute peer code review sessions, what am I condent/concerned about?

  • What did I learn about myself that will be useful when I am a peer mentor?

  • What might I need to invest in or work on to be effective as a peer mentor?

Looking Ahead

In preparation for the next session on Diversity and Inclusion students should read:

Supplemental Reading

Arghode, V. (2013). Emotional and social intelligence for competence: Implications for instruction. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 8(2), 66-77.

Summary paper that reviews literature on emotional intelligence and social competence, with the goal of identifying ways one can improve these skills particularly for instructors.

Peterson, C. H. (2012). Building the emotional intelligence and effective functioning of student work groups: Evaluation of an instructional program. College Teaching, 60, 112-121.

Promotes the concept of group emotional intelligence, or the idea that a group is able to recognize and manage itself effectively including participation of the members. An intervention is presented that demonstrates that certain group norms can help a group to improve, thus suggesting the important role of the instructor in supporting learners.