A Comparative Investigation of First and Fourth Year Pre-service Teachers’ Expectations and Perceptions of Emotional Intelligence

December, 2019

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 44(12), pp. 102-114

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explores how pre-service teachers perceived and used or explained an understanding of the term, Emotional Intelligence (EI).
The study, defines EI as “involving the ability to perceive accurately, appraise and express emotion; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p. 35).
This article offers a lens exploring expectations and perceptions of PSTs enrolled in an undergraduate Bachelor of Education degree in a Victorian higher institution in Australia.
The research focuses on pre-conceived views of the definition, role and understanding of EI during pre-service teachers’ first year of study, comparing this data to that of PSTs in their last year as they transition from their university degree to the profession of teaching.

This study sought to collect data to address the following specific research questions:
● What are the expectations and perceptions of first and fourth year PSTs of the role of Emotional Intelligence in their education degree?
● What are the differences between these expectations and perceptions in the two groups?

This study used a mixed methods design to gather quantitative and qualitative data simultaneously (Creswell, 2009).
Participants in this research are pre-service teachers (PSTs) enrolled in the Bachelor of Education (Honours) with a specialisation in primary and secondary education.
Two hundred and eight students in total participated in this study
PSTs were invited to complete an anonymous online survey via online advertisements in two core units - one in the first year students and another in the fourth year students.
The survey instrument contained a set of questions investigating PSTs’ understanding of EI and their expectations and perceptions about the role of EI in their pre-service education course.
Quantitative data was analysed using SPSS IBM (Pallant, 2016). Qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
Participants’ open-ended responses were coded and categorised into themes.

Findings and discussion
Although this is a small study in a specific Australian university which explored PSTs’ expectations and perceptions of EI in first and fourth year courses, several interesting outcomes emerged.
Firstly, the perceptions students have about EI can be compared to the large body of literature that provides the definition for EI.
Such definitions are consistent with theorists such as Bar-On (2006), Goleman (1998) and Salovey and Mayer (1990).
Student definitions of EI were linked to similar references cited in the literature review, for instance, that EI is the understanding of our own emotions and the emotions of others that EI is about interpersonal relationships, in how we read others and their feelings.
It is clear from the findings that PST’s in this study attempted to reflect and construct a response to their familiarity with EI outside any explicit teaching they may have experienced in their course.
However, an understanding of the components (definition) of EI is only a start to analysing issues confronting teachers in the classroom.
A possible explanation for these results may be due to the popularity of this topic over the last 20 years. Definitions given by students in this study can be linked to definitions of EI found in both popular media and academic research.
PSTs also pointed out that the use of EI, its implications and practice in future classrooms could be strengthened during their bachelor degree.
No responses gave explicit examples of where in their course the teaching of EI would be most beneficial.
The researchers of this study suggest data highlighted the importance of EI as a skill set in the classroom, this would suggest that the importance of any inclusion of teaching and understanding of EI would best be placed before PSTs professional school placements.
As reported, first year PSTs in this study believed that EI would be taught at some point in their degree.
Fourth year PSTs’ responses were stronger in the necessity for explicit teaching of EI that they reported had not been experienced. Fourth year PSTs extensive experiences in classrooms formed these perceptions of EI as vital.
These findings make a case for EI as an integral area of study in units preparing PSTs for classroom practice.
The results from this research strongly suggest that EI is important for PSTs and for their future teaching practice.
However, whilst it seems that there is a clear understanding of EI as a theory, there is confusion around how PSTs’ could apply EI in their future teaching.
As reported in the data, sources of information that provided information about EI were mainly related to media, books and journals.
However, this did not appear to be enough for PSTs to feel proficient or prepare them for future practice in the classroom. Concerns were raised by students for incorporating EI knowledge into the course that would make the application of EI clear and explicit.
Although the findings present a percentage of students engaging with EI in their current studies (particularly in first year students), most of the students claimed that there was a need to incorporate this essential topic as part of a unit, activities or workshops to provide PSTs with useful strategies that can assist in challenging teaching situations.
In the current study, PSTs stated that assistance with the teaching of EI was a matter of urgency for future teaching and future emotional needs.
Only 16.8% of fourth year students also stated that EI was mentioned but not covered with depth.
This finding, whilst a small snapshot, suggests a need to restructure the degree in ways that EI can be explicitly taught to PSTs more than just giving it some random exposure during the course.
It is also important to note that while EI can be taught and developed, it does not act as the most effective method to solve problems in a classroom, as it was stated by some of the respondents.
These findings show that the PSTs surveyed supported EI being taught explicitly during their pre-service course.
PSTs wanted to understand EI, but more importantly, to know how they could use EI in their practical teaching.
PSTs mentioned that understanding EI was important, but more importantly, how they could use this knowledge in practical teaching was essential.
The results suggest that offering classes, lectures, case studies analyses or tutorials could help them to understand, identify, judge, and prepare for future positive or negative situations they might confront with their students.

Bar-On, R. (2006). The Bar-On Model of Emotional-Social Intelligence (ESI). Psicothema, 18, 13-25. Retrieved from https://www.psicothema.com/pdf/3271.pdf
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101.
Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
Pallant, J. (2016). SPSS survival manual: A step by step guide to data analysis using IBM SPSS (6th ed.) Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185-211.

Updated: Nov. 18, 2020