Does Emotional Intelligence Predict Student Teachers’ Performance?

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Published: 
Oct. 01, 2013

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 35, (October, 2013), p. 34-42.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article explores whether emotional intelligence predicts student teacher performance.

This research gives rise to a number of questions:
- Is there evidence of a relationship between pre-service teachers’ levels of emotional intelligence and their performance as a teacher in schools?
- Is there evidence of that any one skill area has a stronger relationship with their performance as a teacher in schools than others?
- Do academic attainment and gender mediate any relationships found?
 

Method
The participants were 352 student teachers, 147 males and 205 females.
They were from the third year of a four-year undergraduate program (UG) and from a one-year graduate diploma (GD) program in an Irish university.

Data were collected through three assessment tools:
- Emotional Intelligence was measured using the MSCEIT, a performance-based test of EI. 
- Prior academic achievement was measured by performance in state-organized, compulsory examinations taken by students at the end of their second-level schooling.
- Rankings of teacher performance on teaching practicum were obtained from students’ records, with student permission.
 

Discussion

The authors did not find any evidence of a relationship between pre-service teachers’ levels of emotional intelligence, and their performance as a teacher in schools.

In addition, they found a significant relationship between perceiving emotions in self and others and the quality of the student teacher performance.
However, the association is negative (those who score higher on perceiving emotions in self and others tend to score lower on the measure of student teacher performance).

Finally, there was no significant association between gender or prior academic achievement and teacher performance.
The authors claim that central to the task of becoming a teacher is developing a professional identity, which in turn is shaped within the participants’ particular cultural context.
The school and examination system within which the students were working tends not to assign a priority to social and emotional learning.
This will have formed a part of the participants’ apprenticeship of observation during their time as school pupils, will have been reinforced by the curriculum they were teaching, and may have been further reinforced by advice and guidance from experienced teachers within their school.

Certainly, in a cultural context in which social and emotional aspects of learning are not assigned a priority, it may be that the decision not to draw on one’s emotional skills may be the safe option for female (and indeed, male) beginning teachers.
 

Implications

These findings have a number of implications.
The data presented here does not support the use of the MSCEIT as a good predictor of teacher performance.
However, these data could be seen as reaffirming the importance of teacher preparation and of contextual, performance-based assessments of teaching that include a clear focus on relational and emotional aspects of the teacher role.

The lack of an association in the data between EI and teacher performance should lead us to re-think assumptions and remodel hypotheses in ways which are sharper.
In doing so we can think about emotional competence in two broad domains, ability/capacity (can teachers utilize emotions successfully) and performance/achievement (do teachers utilize emotions successfully).
The emotional intelligence framework and the MSCEIT provide a nuanced roadmap to investigate teachers’ abstract ability in this domain, but there is also an urgent need for the development of a more contextually specific tool for assessing the ability and disposition to draw upon emotional skills in teaching/learning situations.
 

Conclusion

This study found that teacher emotional intelligence was not a predictor of student teacher performance.
It also found that prior academic attainment and gender were not a good predictor of teacher performance.
The lack of an association may be related to the specific context of teacher education in which the complexity of the task and instability in the nascent professional identity may make it difficult for student teachers to draw on their emotional skills in practice.
It may also be related to the fact that these were post-primary student teachers who have been educated within and are now working in a cultural context which, it has been argued, does not assign priority to social and emotional goals.

Finally, it is worth considering the conceptualization of teacher emotional competence and the distinction drawn, in this respect, between ability/capacity and performance/achievement.
The lack of association found between teacher performance and either emotional skills or academic attainment reaffirms the importance of having contextual, performance-based assessments of teaching that include a clear focus on relational and emotional aspects of the teacher role.
This in turn highlights a need to focus on how teachers are prepared rather than focusing excessively upon how they are selected.

Updated: Nov. 11, 2015
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