BECOME A MEMBER! Sign up for TIE services now and start your international school career


Developing Emotionally Intelligent Teachers

By Ke Huang & Xianxuan Xu
Developing Emotionally Intelligent Teachers

Teaching can be a stressful job. Poor working conditions, lack of sufficient administrative support, low levels of collegiality, low pay, and student behavioral problems all can contribute to negative emotions such as tension, hostility, depression, anger, nervousness, and frustration. So, given the challenges that seem to be inherent in teaching, how might we help teachers to deal with job stress and the negative emotions that ensue? One possibility worth exploring is how emotional intelligence (EI) might relate to teacher well-being.
EI is defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p.189). Studies have found that individuals with high EI are better at regulating expressions of positive and negative feelings in themselves, and also recognizing the emotions in others (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2002). Additionally, when applying the evidence related to EI to teachers, it appears that those with high EI are more empathic and better at creating a learning environment that stimulates the development of students’ socio-emotional skills (Goleman, 2000).
Several studies, conducted in different countries and across multiple cultures, have begun to identify the vital role of emotional intelligence (EI) in improving teacher effectiveness and teacher well-being. For instance, a study in Malaysia found that there is a positive and significant relationship between overall EI skills and overall teaching effectiveness (Hassan et al., 2015). This finding is also corroborated by studies conducted in India. EI was found as one of the factors to contribute to teacher effectiveness with respect to all dimensions such as teaching skills and personal characteristics (Patel, 2017; Srinivasan, 2015).
Surprisingly, the extant research tends to suggest that EI is even more influential than intelligence when it comes to predicting teacher effectiveness and student learning (Patel, 2017). What’s more, recent research has found EI can improve the well-being of teachers to help them to cope with negative emotions and feel personally fulfilled in their work (Fernández-Berrocal et al., 2017). For examples, a study systematically reviewed 645 current studies to find that teachers with higher EI scores feel less work-related stress, and experience more engagement (Mérida-López, Extremera, & Rey, 2017). It indicated that high EI teachers demonstrate a higher level of vigor, dedication, and absorption toward teaching. In China, emotional intelligence has been found to help protect teachers from emotional exhaustion and teacher burnout (Ju, Lan, Li, Feng & You, 2015). Since burnout is negatively related not only with teachers' effectiveness, motivation and job satisfaction (Thakur, 2012), but also with students’ academic achievement and non-academic outcomes (Dorman, 2003; Montgomery & Rupp, 2005), improving teachers’ EI holds the potential to improving both student achievement and teacher well-being.
The good news is EI can be improved through training. As a universal construct across cultures, various EI and EI-related programs have been shown to improve outcomes for students, teachers, and the school system overall (e.g., Keefer, Parker, & Saklofske, 2018; Lipnevich, Preckel, & Roberts, 2016). Research shows that EI programs can increase teacher efficacy, resilience, life satisfaction, and task-oriented coping skills (Vesely, Saklofske & Nordstokke, 2014; Vesely, Saklofske, & Nordstokke, 2017). Through participating in EI training, teachers could enhance their self-awareness and socio-emotional skills, and may even shift their pedagogic views to better facilitate student learning (Dolev & Leshem, 2017a). Further, when equipped with an enhanced awareness of EI, teachers are more capable of dealing with issues in the workplace and their personal lives. In this regard, designing and implementing appropriate training programs to improve teacher’s emotional intelligence clearly seems to be a worthwhile endeavor.
Even though EI training has been found to be effective in selected studies, it won’t be as powerful as we wish if we do not apply the EI concepts and practices appropriately. According to Dolev and Leshem (2017b), there are several crucial elements that we need to take into consideration to ensure the effectiveness of EI training. First of all, EI training should be teacher-centered, which means that it should be focusing on the teacher’s own specific areas of needs—whether it be a lack of skills for emotion regulation or difficulties in socially interacting with certain students. Thus, one lesson for EI development is that it must be a personalized process. EI training also should be combined with group workshops and individual coaching sessions that leads to desired changes in the school and the person simultaneously. In addition, personal assessment should be used as an imperative tool for providing valuable insights, promoting self- understanding and creating a sense of urgency for teachers.
For teachers, EI training should not be a burden or another onerous hurdle to cross. Rather, it is best when viewed as a valuable opportunity to help teachers develop insights for understanding themselves and their impact upon students, and it should lead to personal or professional gains. In essence, it should be satisfying. EI training should be an experience that teachers, themselves, can direct and control. There should always be people to support teachers when they meet challenges. Finally, EI learning cannot be accomplished with a one-shot solution; instead, it should be a sustainable journey. Change – including reducing stress and improving performance as teachers – happens over time and EI development must be considered within this framework if it is to facilitate teacher well-being, growth, and improvement.
Dolev, N., & Leshem, S. (2017a). Developing emotional intelligence competence among teachers. Teacher Development, 21(1), 21-39.
Dolev, N., & Leshem, S. (2017b). What makes up an effective emotional intelligence training design for teachers?. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, 16(10), 72-89.
Dorman, J. P. (2003). Relationship between school and classroom environment and teacher burnout: A LISREL analysis. Social Psychology of Education, 6(2), 107-127.
Fernández-Berrocal, P., Gutiérrez-Cobo, M. J., Rodriguez-Corrales, J., & Cabello, R. (2017). Teachers’ affective well-being and teaching experience: The protective role of perceived emotional intelligence. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1-8.
Goleman, D. (2000). Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY: Bantam
Hassan, N., Jani, S. H. M., Som, R. M., Hamid, N. Z. A., & Azizam, N. A. (2015). The relationship between emotional intelligence and teaching effectiveness among lecturers at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Puncak Alam, Malaysia. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 5(1), 1-5.
Ju, C., Lan, J., Li, Y., Feng, W., & You, X. (2015). The mediating role of workplace social support on the relationship between trait emotional intelligence and teacher burnout. Teaching and Teacher Education, 51, 58-67.
Keefer, K. V., Parker, J. D., & Saklofske, D. H. (Eds.). (2018). Emotional Intelligence in education: Integrating research with practice. New York, NY: Springer.
Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R. (2002), Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) user's manual. Toronto, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.
Mérida-López, S., & Extremera, N. (2017). Emotional intelligence and teacher burnout: A systematic review. International Journal of Educational Research, 85, 121-130.
Montgomery, C., & Rupp, A. A. (2005). A meta-analysis for exploring the diverse causes and effects of stress in teachers. Canadian Journal of Education/Revue canadienne de l'éducation, 28(3), 458-486.
Patel, R. S. (2017). Teacher effectiveness in context to their emotional intelligence. Voices of Research, 5(4), 1-5.
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185-211.
Srinivasan, P. (2015). Exploring the influences of teacher’s intelligence and emotional intelligence on students’ academic achievement. American Journal of Educational Research, 3(9), 1159-62.
Thakur, S. S. (2012). To study the relationship between burnout and effectiveness of primary school teachers. International Indexed & Referred Journal, 3(30), 15-16.
Vesely, A. K., Saklofske, D. H., & Nordstokke, D. W. (2014). EI training and pre-service teacher wellbeing. Personality and Individual Differences, 65, 81-85.
Vesely, A. K., Saklofske, D. H., & Nordstokke, D. W. (2017, March). Investigating possible mechanisms of emotional intelligence training in pre-service teachers. Paper presented at the international society for the study of individual differences annual convention. Warsaw, Poland.
Ke Huang is a doctoral student at The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, USA. Xianxuan Xu is with Stronge & Associates Educational Consulting, LLC, USA.

Please fill out the form below if you would like to post a comment on this article:


05/14/2019 - Aloysius
"In this regard, designing and implementing appropriate training programs to improve teacher's emotional intelligence clearly seems to be a worthwhile endeavor". This sentence to me is the heart of the article. Indeed, teaching is a complex activities that needs emotionally well adjusted teachers. However, teacher-training programs seem to largely sideline this important concept. Teacher-trainers need to strategically include EI early enough during teacher formation. It seems difficult to train practicing teachers in EI and to successfully make them adjust to consistent job challenges.



University Visits in a Post Covid World?
By Robbie Jefferiss
May 2021

A Ferry Crossing from Love to Loss and Back Again
By Kathleen Naglee
Apr 2021