This third article in a series discussing educational neuroscience (EN) looks at the relevance of emotional intelligence, metacognition and self-regulated learning.

In a rapidly evolving technological age, there is no doubt that artificial intelligence (AI) promises a revolutionary transformation in education. However, while we are eager to integrate advanced technologies into the classroom, we must not overlook the significance of basic skills such as emotional intelligence, meta-cognition and self-regulated learning. The basic skills and foundational competencies that educational neuroscience offers are paramount in shaping students to be resilient, reflective and self-directed.

Starting with emotional intelligence (EI), this pertains to one’s ability to recognise, understand and manage both one’s emotions and those of others, emphasising the capability of emotion regulation. This skill plays a crucial role in developing resilience and facilitating positive interactions, teamwork and conflict resolution.

As students work with AI tools, which are inherently devoid of emotions, having strong EI becomes essential. Moreover, emotional intelligence paves the way for empathy, fostering understanding and compassion.

In an increasingly globalised world, students need to adapt to diverse cultural and social settings. It is through emotional intelligence that they can form genuine connections, collaborate effectively and be more adaptable in various situations.

Metacognition, or ‘thinking about one’s own thinking’, is another fundamental skill, allowing students to understand their learning processes, strengths and areas of improvement. By being metacognitive, students can approach problems more strategically, deciding when to employ a certain method or when to switch tactics.

In an AI-driven classroom, metacognition is even more vital. With AI tools often providing instant solutions, students must remain critical thinkers, questioning outcomes and processes. They must be able to discern when to use AI and when to rely on their own cognitive abilities.

Self-regulated learning involves students taking charge of their own learning processes. They set goals, monitor their progress and adjust strategies as needed. Such learners are intrinsically motivated, persistent and adaptable.

In our rush to remain at the forefront of technological integration, there is a risk of neglecting these basic skills

AI can provide personalised learning experiences, but students must still be at the helm of their educational journey. With self-regulation, they can decide what they want to learn, how to go about it and when to use AI as an aid. This creates a balanced and well-rounded learning environment, where technology is considered an enabler that facilitates learning, rather than being a sole dependency.

In our rush to remain at the forefront of technological integration, there is a risk of neglecting these basic skills. Schools might be tempted to allocate more time and resources to AI tools and training, pushing these fundamental skills to the background.

However, without emotional intelligence, students might struggle with mental health, resilience, collaboration and adaptability. Without metacognition, they could become passive recipients, not critical thinkers. And without self-regulation, they risk becoming overly reliant on technology, missing out on the richness of active, self-directed learning.

As we stand at the onset of an AI-driven educational revolution, it is imperative to strike a balance. While AI can process information and perform tasks efficiently, it lacks the human touch, empathy, and interpersonal understanding that are intrinsic to soft skills.

While recognising the benefits that technology brings, it is crucial that individuals retain the ability to communicate, collaborate, and understand others effectively. In fact, the synergy of advanced AI capabilities and human soft skills can drive innovation and solutions that neither could achieve alone.

Hence, the significance of EN is crucial, serving as the key to implementing 21st century soft skills that form the foundation of students’ education, and which prepares them for their future position in the working world.

While integrating advanced technologies, schools must also prioritise nurturing these vital skills.

Emotional intelligence, metacognition and self-regulated learning are not merely educational buzzwords; they are foundational pillars rooted in the insights that comprise EN. These pillars ensure that students not only thrive in the age of AI but also remain human at the core, with the ability to think, feel  and act with intention and profound understanding.


The author is the founder and director of the Educational Neuroscience Hub Europe (Malta), which aims to raise awareness of evidence-based strategies, with the goal of enhancing the effectiveness of the teaching and learning process, placing students at the centre of their education.

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