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15 – Teaching EQ: Strategies for Success in Graduate School and Beyond


  • Amy Howells, Child, Family and Population Health Nursing, School of Nursing, UW Seattle
  • Renee Cantarini, Child, Family and Population Health Nursing, School of Nursing, UW Seattle
  • Marie-Annette Brown, Child, Family and Population Health Nursing, School of Nursing, UW Seattle


Decades of research published in the Harvard Business Review highlights the pivotal role that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) plays in the success of leaders and employees in almost all professional arenas. No longer considered a ‘soft skill’, evidence shows EQ can be improved with attention and training. We applied EQ to an existing Leadership, Communication and Professional Identity course for 1st year Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students. This innovative strategy allows for a degree of personalization that greatly enhances the applicability of course topics to individuals.

Our course uses active learning strategies to teach major concepts (e.g., giving and receiving feedback, dealing with conflict, group effectiveness). Early in the quarter, key components of EQ are introduced and students take a self-assessment. The results of the EQ assessment are used throughout the quarter to individualize how students approach course modules. A quarter long project requires each student to choose their lowest scoring EQ domain and identify several strategies from our course text. The assignment consists of 4 phases: Identification of the EQ domain to address, choosing strategies to address that domain, a mid-quarter check-in (requires analysis of the strategies and any changes going forward), and a final analysis at the end of the quarter.

Students provided formal written, as well as unsolicited, feedback about their positive outcomes. Their enthusiasm focused on the broad application of their enhanced EQ skills. This novel approach allowed for practical skill development applicable in graduate school, their professions and life in general. The addition of EQ content to curriculum is easily adaptable to multiple disciplines and varied class formats. There is broad applicability to baccalaureate and graduate students, alike. EQ is a transformative approach to building skills that are necessary for success in higher education, as well as professional and personal lives.

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