PD Video Annotation: EQ & the Yale RULER

Yale RULER Tool

Marc Brackett

Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Presidential Inauguration Symposia

“Emotional Intelligence: From Theory to Everyday Practice”


Minute 4:05 – A plus 5 rating means that this is the most amazing day of your life. While a minus 5 rating means you should probably be somewhere else and not listening to this lecture!

Minute 5:45 – Brackett asks the audience members who rated themselves in the yellow and green, “Is this the reality of your everyday life” and seemed to get a mixed response. Good question to gauge your students upon meeting them.

Minute 5:52 – Brackett asks the audience, after they have self-assesed their emotional state based on the RULER tool, to identify the word that best describes their current emotion, good or bad. “Over fifty percent of the room was challenged to find the best word.”

Minute 7:55 – Brackett asks the audience how many people drink wine in order to illustrate his point that healthy expression and description of emotion takes practice and a learned vocabulary. “There are underlying reasons why we feel the way we do and labeling them is important.”

Minute 10:50 – Bracket puts the essential practical question to the audience: “What’s your strategy?” Meaning, in order to try and regulate your emotions and keep them somewhere in the yellow or green sections of the RULER tool, what mental or physical strategies do you deliberately employ?

I would be a rich man if I had a nickel for every time I heard a teacher ask a student who is struggling with an academic problem, “What’s your strategy?” This is well-known language in most classrooms, however, is it used when talking about student emotions, and the behavioral consequences of those emotions?

Minute 11:20 – An audience member answers that her strategy is to focus on the positive, a very general and subjective mental strategy for regulating emotions. In response Bracket refocuses the question and narrows the goal of the strategies to just regulating emotions during his lecture, for the next 40 minutes or so, no more. An audience member says they will remember to breath (specific and possibly helpful), but another audience member says “Pay attention.” Brackett questions this as an effective and specific emotional regulation strategy because it does not actually define the mental and physical acts that are contained within paying attention to a speaker.

Minute 14:00 – Historically, the idea of emotional intelligence was considered impossible or an oxymoron. Reason and emotion are antithetical.

Minute 15:30 – “We know that when we are feeling anxious it is hard to concentrate…Think about what its like to be a child who is being bullied in school….When your brain is focused on dealing with very strong unpleasant emotions, how can it be available for learning? On the positive side, if you are going on vacation next weekend, it is hard to focus on your work the week before.”

Minute 16:30 – Bracket begins to talk about how emotions make the grading of student work a subjective task for teachers. Ninety percent of teachers did not think their emotions affected their grading of student work. We are not conscious or aware of this emotionally-caused bias. This is just one example from education.

Minute 19:10 – Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer are the fathers of emotional intelligence research. There were two initial ideas about EQ; first, that some people would be gifted at employing effective strategies in regulating emotion while others would not be so. Second, that there would be a way to measure and define EQ as a special mental ability that could positively affect people’s lives.

Minute 20:40 – What is EQ? Yale RULER Definition:

R ecognizing emotions in self and others.

U nderstanding the causes and consequences of emotions.

L abeling emotions accurately.

E xpressing emotions appropriately.

R egulating emotions effectively.

Minute 23:00 – Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions, when extrapolating this part of the RULER definition of EQ, Brackett explains how teachers need to know that when grading in the yellow you might find a student essay to be better than it is (expansive and generous), while you are in the red or blue you will be more critical (pessimistic, contracted).

“So we know that our emotions are constantly affecting our thinking and judgment.” And, importantly, this goes beyond grading to actual teacher-student interactions which can easily be negatively affected by either the teacher’s or the student’s emotions.

Minute 23:50 – “It is not realistic to be happy all the time.” So Brackett explains how the different quadrants of the RULER EQ tool lend themselves to different writing exercises:


Minute 26:20 – All emotions can be useful depending on what you do with it. The red can be nasty but, “if you convert it to passion, now you have a difference.”

Minute 29:38 – Brackett asks the audience a very important question after defining jealousy as being a dynamic in a relationship, whereas envy is simply a material desire. The question is, “Why would I want a teacher or student to know the difference between jealousy and envy?” The short answer is that there will be different corresponding strategies when dealing with jealousy and envy, it is important to distinguish.

Minute 32:20 – Brackett asks two very simple and very obvious questions about the regulation of emotions that emphasize its importance:

  1. How many of you would like to have more strategies to regulate your emotions?
  2. How many of you wish the people you live with would have more strategies to regulate their emotions?

Minute 34:00 – Emotion regulation is usually thought of in terms of negative feeling avoidance or coping. And sometimes we talk about how to generate positive emotions. But Brackett begins to talk about “emotional maintenance” here, “dream stealers”, how you maintain “flow” despite distractions or haters, as opposed to generating that state.

36:30 – Self-assessment of your own EQ is unreliable, along with assessments from people around you. Emotional ability-based assessments are the most reliable and in the developing stages at Yale. “Asking people, ‘How good are you at regulating your emotions?’ just doesn’t have any validity.”

Minute 38:20 – Brackett generalizes research results of studies done on young adolescent students with higher emotional intelligence:



Minute 39:30 – Brackett tells a sad illustrative story from his own laugh about how taking the GRE’s immediately following the passing of his mother adversely affected his ability to focus and do his best on the test. His results had little do with his cognitive ability or studying habits, and everything to do with his emotional state at the time. “What I hope happens is that people understand the nuances. That some people feel anxiety when taking tests. That people are at a place in their life where they are not capable of doing complex problem solving because of outside influences on their emotions.”

Minute 40:45 – Brackett reviews the results of research on classrooms where teachers demonstrate qualities of higher emotional intelligence, like bringing students into the learning process, using less cynicism or sarcasm, etc:


Minute 44:05 – Brackett talks about how emotional intelligence develops:


“Every parent should know about these skills.” And so should every teacher working with young students. “If you are creative, you are going to fail a lot, and you need those emotional strategies to deal with the failure and not give up.” If you agree with Sir Ken Robinson that the most important aspect of an education is to cultivate creativity, then this is a profound discovery for educators, teachers and parents.

Minute 47:47 – Brackett begins to discuss the establishment of emotional intelligence rules. He confirms that everyone loves to break rules and emphasizes intentionally creating an ideal environment in school.

Minute 49:40 – He talks about awareness of emotional triggers and the use of Meta-Moments to recognize and regulate the emotional triggers:

Yale Meta-Moment

What does your best self look like? Define that, remember it, hold on to it and then strategize depending upon that aspirational self image! “You never regret being your best self. You always regret being unregulated.”

Minute 54:15 – “We train everyone with a face.” Superintendent, parents, school secretary, teachers, etc. RULER theory of change:

Minute 59:00 – Brackett finishes the lecture by introducing us to Garreth, a student Brackett met while creating an emotional intelligence lab school in England. Garreth was bullied in elementary school and then arrived at this middle school where all students and faculty had been trained on emotional intelligence and it had a completely different environment for him. Brackett tells this heartwarming story of how this work and this EQ awareness can change a student’s life, open them up, build confidence and reveal their cognitive and creative talents.

More Yale Ruler info:

Bellevue Schools teach emotional smarts to help boost academic success. – The Seattle Times

Emotions Matter – Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

We feel, therefore we learn

This article originally appeared in the July issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here.

The Emerging Science of Culture and Emotions in the Classroom

At our orientation in Gwangju, all of us JLP NET’s were introduced to the cultural framework of Geert Hofstede who, according to JLP coordinator Chris Devison, characterized Korea as “collectivist, slightly feminine, having large power distance and a strong avoidance of uncertainty”. Among the many implications that this unique Korean cultural makeup has in our English classrooms, Chris pointed out that, “What your students have learned when learning Korean is part of their identity and eliminating it completely may give the impression of threatening their identity.” Another important implication is that, “Korean students also have a strong avoidance of uncertainty and ambiguity. This causes them to seem quiet and shy as they prefer not to ask about the unknown and even try to avoid it if possible.” At one point or another, we have all found ourselves frustrated with the variety of Korean cultural elements at play in our classrooms.

Indeed, as Western Waygooks we all experience the cultural effects on education in Korea more acutely than the natives. We are able to compare and contrast against what we know of and experienced in our schools back home, as students and/or teachers. In addition to what we intuit about the cultural effect on education systems and learning styles, there is an emerging body of research that confirms and potentially clarifies that effect.

At the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, Professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang is in the midst of a five year study of Latino, East Asian and bi-cultural students to see how culture affects the social development of the adolescent brain. Half way through the research period, Immordino-Yang claims there are already two big takeaways about learning; first, Immordino-Yang says, “Traditional educational approaches think about emotion the way Descartes did; emotion is interfering with your ability to do well in school, to think rationally. Neuroscience is showing us that that is absolutely not the case—when you take emotion out of thought you have no basis for thought anymore. So we’re trying to understand how socially constructed emotion shapes learning, academic development and identity.”

Second, Immordino-Yang says “There were no differences at all in how much these young adults’ brains were activating when they responded to our emotional stories—and no differences in the strengths of emotions that participants in the different cultural groups reported…But there was a strong cultural difference in how patterns of neural activity corresponded in real-time with participants’ experience—in how people became aware of their emotion.”

In other words, emotions play a big role in how we all learn, regardless of cultural or linguistic backgrounds, and yet those backgrounds do have a differing effect on our awareness and outward expression of those same emotions we all feel.

Based on my background teaching in Latin America, Korea and the U.S., these preliminary results of Immordino-Yang’s research rung true, and so I became interested in hearing how or if this study resonated with some of my fellow English teachers here in Yeosu. So I asked them. What follows is an abbreviated version of some of the highlights of that discussion.

How do you say ‘emotions’ in Korean?

Many of the teachers I interviewed expressed bewilderment at the fact that emotions were once thought to have no role in learning. Most seemed to believe that across cultures emotions play a significant role in learning, but that student emotions in a Korean classroom differ significantly from those in Western classrooms. For example, Alison Pirtle (Nam Elementary), said, “I find that it is more difficult here to identify the students who are experiencing big, emotional issues in Korea, than it is in the U.S. My lack of understanding the Korean language probably has a lot to do with that, but I also think it’s their lack of outward emotions as well. Back in the States, it’s often easy to identify students who are having emotional issues due to personal problems. Here, though, it seems that students internalize their problems so it’s harder to identify a student who really needs emotional support.”

The emerging results of the Immordino-Yang study confirm this anecdotal observation about East Asian students. In a cultural identity test students are asked to monitor their heart rate after performing a simple exercise. “What we find is that among the East-Asian American kids, it’s the kids who are not particularly sensitive to their heartbeats who are saying they strongly hold Asian values, whereas among the Latino kids, it’s those who have a better ability to feel their heartbeats who are saying they strongly hold Latino cultural values,” says Immordino-Yang. In other words, a person’s cultural identity may affect their sensitivity to or awareness of their own physical and emotional state.

One teacher went a step further regarding emotions in our English classrooms and brought it back to us as Western educators and cultural ambassadors in Korea. Melody Peters (Booyeong Elementary) said, “The biggest thing in any classroom in Korea is that to the students we don’t just teach English, we ARE English. We can have the best resources, technology, and curriculum, but if we don’t show up emotionally, if we don’t see ourselves as the biggest asset in their learning, then we offer little chance of the students to emotionally connect with the language.”

The Cultural Elephant in the Room

In the end, Immordino-Yang puts her study’s implications for learning fairly succinctly, “We’re learning that what’s happening on the outside—the same story, the same lesson—can be interpreted differently, experienced differently, by different learners. So we really need to start to unpack the roles of school culture and individual variability when we think about how children learn. We need to understand that the way kids feel matters.”

Not surprisingly, this is where my conversations with my fellow NET’s on this subject got a bit more critical of Korean and Confucian culture. Issues like the singular adolescent pressure of Suneung (수능) were mentioned, large class sizes, the lack of differentiation in instruction and too much rigidity in the curriculum. While the most watched TED Talk of all time is Sir Ken Robinson’s on creativity and schools, John Palmsano (Shinwol Elementary) wrote of Korea, “Creativity isn’t reinforced as much as it is back home. Asking them {students} to be creative with or modify their use of our language is something out of reach of all but the most advanced elementary speakers.”

Lastly, the Confucian undercurrents in modern Korean society are significant. Its emphasis on family and social harmony are evidenced positively here by the Han River Miracle and the high level of personal safety we all feel walking down the street. “It ensures that Korea is a strong society and community by ensuring everyone’s survival and collective success as a people. The teamwork of Korea astounds me as an American,” writes Ryan Hedger (Yeosu Information Science High School). The downsides, as we all know, are rigid social hierarchy, lack of individual identity and one-size-fits all solutions to all sorts of problems ranging from safety to English language acquisition.

In spite of the significant strengths of Korean culture, the questions that the Immordino-Yang study presents for Korean society and education remain. Is that initial progress and success brought about by Korean culture and the education system now being impeded by those same forces? Is it necessary to improve the quality and style of education in Korea in order to leverage student emotion? How can the strong and proud collectivist culture of Korea, which has assured their sovereignty and exported wonders across the globe, accommodate the unique learning needs of individual students in the education system? Should Korea even care about a Western academic study on culture and learning?

My answer to those questions is YES, YES, IDK and definitely! But, of course, I’m the one working in a foreign culture here.

GOOD Magazine on Immordino-Yang – http://magazine.good.is/articles/cultural-literacy?utm_source=thedailygood&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailygood

USC Rossier School of Education article – http://rossier.usc.edu/immordino-yang-probes-the-connections-between-emotion-culture-and-learning/