Kristina Turner

Teachers ‘must show’ emotional intelligence but how will it be measured? (And other questions)

All initial teacher education graduates must now “show superior cognitive and emotional intelligence measured via a psychometric assessment” before they will be considered for teaching jobs in New South Wales public schools.  This requirement is part of the Teacher Success Profile launched last year by the New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes.

I asked the New South Wales Department of Education, Teach NSW and NSW Education Standards Authority for a copy of the Teacher Success Profile because I was interested to find out what “superior emotional intelligence” means. However, at the time of writing this article it has not been made available.

After doing further research into this, I am still unclear what “superior emotional intelligence” actually means.

My research on teachers and emotional intelligence

I lead a scoping review to find out what is known from the existing research literature about pre-service teachers and emotional intelligence. We found 24 articles published which fit the criteria for this scoping review, 23 of these used quantitative research methods, that is they used statistical, mathematical, or computational research techniques.

Our scoping review revealed little is known about pre-service teachers’ emotional intelligence. There is a lack of literature available for initial teacher education providers to use in supporting their pre-service teachers to develop “superior emotional intelligence”.

Lack of Australian context

The 24 articles we found were produced during the years 2000 to 2019. Over one third originated from Turkey, with the other studies representing globally diverse origins. Only one of the studies involved Australian pre service teachers.

Most of the current knowledge has been developed through quantitative research methods. Twenty-three of the studies used quantitative methods such as correlation and descriptive statistics. Only one study used a solely qualitative phenomenological method, which focuses on an individual’s lived experiences within the world.

While the scoping review did not explain what “superior emotional intelligence” might mean to the NSW Department of Education, the current quantitative literature does offer some insight into the trends, relationships and statistically significant results in the area of pre-service teacher emotional intelligence.

What we know emotional intelligence and teaching

Psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer who developed the model describe emotional intelligence as

a type of social intelligence which includes skills such as: recognising, monitoring and managing one’s own and others’ feelings; being aware of the difference between them; and applying this information to direct ideas and actions. Emotional intelligence includes both verbal and non-verbal evaluation, expression of feelings, regulation of one’s own and others’ feelings and the application of emotional content in problem-solving

Research has demonstrated that emotional intelligence plays a significant role in teacher effectiveness. In his book examining teacher emotional intelligence, former Professor of Educational Development at Birmingham City University, Alan Mortiboys, argues that in addition to high levels of subject and pedagogical knowledge, highly effective teachers also have high levels of emotional intelligence. Teacher emotional intelligence has been shown to influence students’ behaviour, engagement, attachment to school, and academic performance.

High levels of emotional intelligence also support teacher wellbeing. Teachers who are more skilled at regulating their emotions experience greater job satisfaction, positive affect whilst teaching and support from their principals, and are less likely to experience burnout.

The literature shows that pre-service (student) teacher emotional intelligence correlates positively with pre-service teacher  self-efficacy, which is a pre-service teacher’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations and accomplish a task.

We know that emotions greatly impact on the teaching and learning process. Emotions matter in learning, in teaching and in learning to teach.

We also know that emotional intelligence is not a genetically determined or fixed trait, therefore it is possible to both teach and learn emotional intelligence skills and strategies. Thus, the inclusion of emotional intelligence education in initial teacher education courses would suggest that graduates of these programs should demonstrate greater emotional intelligence as they begin their teaching careers.

We found many gaps

Although, having pre-service teachers with “superior emotional intelligence” sounds very appealing, my scoping review shows there are gaps in our knowledge that have resulted from the paucity of qualitative research in this area. Qualitative research is important as it allows for rich, detailed description of peoples’ lived experiences with complex phenomena, such as emotional intelligence.

Current literature does not adequately address questions such as:

  • Should emotional intelligence be included in initial teacher education program selection criteria?
  • How can initial teacher education providers best meet pre-service teacher emotional intelligence needs?
  • What is the most appropriate measure of emotional intelligence for pre-service teachers?
  • How can emotional intelligence skills be integrated across the initial teacher education curriculum?
  • How do pre-service teachers use emotional intelligence skills to inform their development as teachers?
  • How does pre-service teachers’ teaching practice change as their emotional intelligence develops?
  • Which elements of emotional intelligence are the most pertinent and the most challenging for pre-service teachers to develop?
  • How do pre-service teachers use emotional intelligence to help them manage challenging situations in their initial teacher education course?
  • How do pre-service teachers translate their emotional intelligence understandings into classroom practice?
  • How do pre-service teachers use emotional intelligence to benefit their students and inform their teaching practice as graduate teachers?

Further research is needed to address these questions. The findings of such research could prove significant in informing the implementation of the New South Wales Teacher Success Profile.

Joining the list of Teacher Education Reforms

Reforms in Australia’s initial teacher education programs add weight to the call for greater examination of emotional intelligence in initial teacher education programs. In response to Australian students’ declining results on standardised tests, a number of measures have been introduced to ensure the high standard of teachers graduating from initial teacher education programs. The reforms include an increase in the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) entrance score for all initial teacher education courses for school leavers. In addition, all pre service teachers need to pass online literacy and numeracy tests to ensure they are of an above average standard prior to graduating from initial teacher education courses. Further, initial teacher education providers are required to implement evidence-based selection criteria to determine teaching candidates’ personal attributes and motivations to ensure they are suitable candidates for admission to an initial teacher education course, and complete a formal Teaching Performance Assessment during pre service teachers’ final year of initial teacher education, demonstrating evidence of pre service teachers’ readiness to teach.

The Teacher Success Profile introduces a further externally-set requirement into initial teacher education which necessitates that pre-service teachers demonstrate “superior emotional intelligence”. Such regulations imposed on initial teacher education courses, aimed at ensuring high quality teaching graduates, require initial teacher education providers to invest significant funds and human resources into implementing and monitoring pre-service teacher outcomes to ensure these standards are met.

A need for funding for research and implementation

It is hoped that the implementation of such government-set regulations are accompanied by the allocation of sufficient funding to support the research that will need to be done in this area for proper implementation, as well as costs to initial teacher education providers in implementing and running such initiatives.

Dr Kristina Turner is a Lecturer in Primary Education at Swinburne University. Kristina is the Course Director for the Bachelor of Education (Primary) and Master of Teaching (Primary) courses. Kristina has worked in a variety of school and university settings. Kristina’s research interests are in teacher wellbeing, positive education and pre-service teacher emotional intelligence.

This information in this blog has been adapted from: Turner, K. & Stough, C. (2019). Pre-service teachers and emotional intelligence: A scoping review. Australian Educational Researcher , 1-23. doi:10.1007/s13384-019-00352-0