How Emotionally Intelligent Are Pre-service Teachers?

From Section:
Preservice Teachers
Jul. 01, 2012

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 28, Issue 5, pages 750-759, (July, 2012).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aims to assess the level of emotional intelligence of student teachers.
The authors used Mayer and Salovey’s emotional intelligence (EI) model and the MSCEIT test of EI.

The MSCEIT is composed of 141-items which make up eight ‘task’ scales, which in turn make up the four ‘branch’ scales that form the basis of the Mayer and Salovey model of EI.
Each category representing a class of skills.

The four categories utilized are:
* Perception, Appraisal, and Expression of Emotion;
* Using Emotion to Facilitate Thinking;
* Understanding and Analysing Emotional Information;
* and Regulation of Emotion. 

The participants were 352 Student teachers, from the third year of a four-year undergraduate program and from a one-year graduate diploma program in an Irish university.
The MSCEIT was administered to both groups of students.


This study shows that the pre-service student teachers studied have levels of emotional intelligence below the norm for the wider population.
The gender differences are greater in this sample than would be expected in the wider population.
The pattern of student scores on each of the four components is also associated with gender: female students perform about average at using emotion to facilitate thinking and at regulation of emotion, but less well in the other two components.
Male students perform about the same in all four skill areas.

The findings reveal that participants were, on average, significantly below the expected average in the first skill area.
Furthermore, they were worse at this skill area than at a number of other skill areas.
It was also found that the undergraduates actually outperformed the graduates on this competence.
Male students did worse than female students on this area of skill.

In addition, the participants were, on average, significantly stronger in the second skill area than in perceiving emotions and in understanding emotional changes.
This is largely attributable to the fact that the average score for female students for this skill was at the population average, however, the score for male students remained notably lower. This skill area revealed the largest gap between the performance of male and female students.

The third skill area was the one in which the participants scored lowest of all, and their scores on this area was statistically significantly lower than for using emotions to facilitate thinking and for emotion regulation.
The male student teachers scored lower than female student teachers and this difference is statistically significant.
Furthermore, the participants were significantly below the expected average in the fourth skill area.
However, their score on this area was significantly higher than their score for perceiving emotions and for understanding emotions.
This finding can be attributed to the fact that the average score for female students was almost half of a standard deviation higher than the score for male students.

There were no notable differences between undergraduate and graduate students on this skill.
In this study male students scored on average lower than female students.
However, the ranges in scores means that there are many males which have higher levels of emotional intelligence than many females.
The gender differences in this sample were wider than those in the normative sample used for the MSCEIT.
It may be that this is in part a function of the particularly gendered culture of the subjects which the students were preparing to teach - there was a notable if marginally non-significant effect for school subjects when gender was controlled for.

It may also reflect a cultural difference in gendering of emotional skills between the Irish and US samples.
The data suggest that for many students all four skill areas will be important, but that
(a) perceiving emotions in self and others and
(b) understanding and analysing emotional information may be particularly weak areas for many student teachers.


These data suggest that, on average, student teachers may need help in all four of the competence areas that have been described.
However, it does also suggest that teacher education programs might need to place a particular emphasis on the skills of perceiving emotions in self and others, and of understanding emotional changes and progressions.

The data also suggests that male students, on average, are weaker than female students at using emotions to facilitate thinking and at regulation of emotion.
This finding directs attention to the way in which emotional skills are developed in and embedded in gendered social experiences and possibly also in sub-cultures of particular school subjects.

Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey, & D. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Educational implications (pp. 3e31) New York: Basic Books.

Updated: Dec. 22, 2019
Cognitive tests | Emotional intelligence | Preservice teachers | Student characteristics | Teacher characteristics | Teacher effectiveness