Sunday, April 11, 2010

Quality Teachers Beget Quality Students

Quality Teachers Beget Quality Students:
Inculcating Emotional Intelligence

Prof. Madya. Dr. Noriah Mohd. Ishak
Dr. Syed Najmuddin Syed Hassan
Dr. Syafrimen, M. Ed

Education Faculty
University Kebangsaan Malaysia
43600 Bangi, Selangor


Since the term emotional intelligence (EI) was coined by Mayer and Salovey in 1990 and popularized by Goleman in his book titled Emotional Intelligence; this concept has gained acceptance by many and has been research extensively. The emotional intelligence’s concept is gathering momentum in Malaysia. EI is the ability to sense, understand and effectively use the power of emotions to guide, motivate and even influence others. Human emotions are the energy that keeps individuals going after or even when completing a task. By using and controlling the emotions to achieve any objectives, EI enables people to explore and understand fully about the emotion of self and others. Teacher-students relationship can be emotionally laden, particularly when both parties put pressures on each other with their expectations. Therefore, teachers’ positive emotion can trigger similar emotion among students, and this can help increase the teaching-learning process. This paper tries to examine relationship between domains of emotional intelligence among teachers and implication of each domain on teacher-students relationship.


Employers have long recognized that the competency associated with emotional intelligence is crucial. Emotional qualities such as adaptability in the face of setback and obstacle, personal self-management, confidence, motivation to work towards goals, group and interpersonal effectiveness, teamwork, skills in negotiating disagreement and leadership potentials are needed more than before to navigate route of challenges forced by the era of borderless world. According to Goleman (1999), the “rules for work are changing” (p. 1). He suggested that performance is not judge only by ability to complete a task given but also by one’s ability to handle one self and others. Inevitably, academic excellence does play a role to enable someone to land into a good job, but it will not ensure top quality performance in work. Goleman (1999) posits that star performers have an edge over others in terms of their ability to control their emotion. They can endure tedious task without getting disgruntle, and they are always able to work as a team towards common organizational goals.

Teachers are also employees of a very big organization, with a very complex system. Teaching and learning in the era of globalization can be an overwhelmingly exhaustive experience. Competitive and challenging working environment can bring negative impact on teachers as well as students. These can lead to emotional outburst between the two groups, and it can be quiet damaging if it happens to teachers. A study conducted by Skovholt and D’Rozario (2000) shows that students always consider teachers who display empathy and have the ability to interact socially with them as excellent teachers. This idea supports ideas of facilitative teachers suggested by Grasha (1996) who suggested that excellent teachers are those who empathized with their students and sensitive to their needs. These teachers are willing to reach out to their students, and inevitably become the students’ role model.

However, accomplishment of teachers’ daily works are always challenge by various groups of individuals, namely: policy makers, school administrators, parents, and students. Either these individuals can help produce environment that is conducive for teachers to function effectively or they can actually become hindrance to the teachers’ daily functioning. Reports by the mass media (New Strait Times 2000; Utusan Malaysia 2001; Berita Harian 2003) suggest that teachers become dysfunctional at their workplace due to constant interaction with disruptive students who were not able to follow instruction or display disrespectful behaviors towards their teachers. Subsequently, teachers produce emotionally laden behaviors that affect their teaching competencies. Instead of facilitating the teaching-learning process, teachers prefer to become only knowledge disseminator that portrays very impersonal teacher-students relationships.

A study conducted by Rosnah (2003) on teachers’ personality profile suggests that the teachers under study lack considerable amount of feelings, and they were not able to transmit their positive feelings towards their students. This inability to transmit positive feelings can trigger similar inert behaviors among students that suggest lack of feelings. This was shown by a study conducted to examine personality profiles of a group of students studying in a Malaysian higher institution (Noriah et al. 2002). The findings suggest that generally the students lack positive feelings. One wonders if such lacking resulted from a vicarious learning happened in the classroom environment. Since, teachers are students’ best role model, and students always react to teachers’ behavior, therefore, whatever behaviors emit feelings or thinking from the teachers, will affect the students. Consequently, good quality teachers will beget good quality students and vice verse. Teachers who are conscious of their own feelings (positive as well as negative), who can regulate their feelings positively, motivate others, show empathy, love and care for the students, and interact positively with students will produce students with similar behaviors. This brings the discussion to the three questions this research was trying to answer:

1. What are the factors that help promote positive emotion (and thereby increasing teachers’ emotional intelligence)? 2. Do these factors correlate with each other? 3. Do teachers teaching in different schools, boarding and daily schools (assuming that the different schools will influence teachers’ ability to regulate positive feelings) differ in their ability to promote positive emotion (and therefore, their emotional intelligence)?

Domains of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is referred as emotional quotient or emotional literacy. Individuals with emotional intelligence are able to relate to others with compassion and empathy, have well-developed social skills, and use this emotional awareness to direct their actions and behaviors. The term emotional intelligence was first coined in 1990 by John Mayer and Peter Salovey and was accepted by psychologist worldwide after Goleman successfully published his book “Emotional Intelligence” in 1995. According to Goleman (1995, p.28), “an emotional competence is a learned capability based on emotional intelligence that results in outstanding performance at work”. He argued that emotional intelligence determines ones potential for learning the practical skills that are based on two competencies (personal and social competencies). Personal competency has three domains; self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-motivation, while the social competency comprised of two domains, namely; empathy, and social skills. Self-awareness is defined by one’s ability to know one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions. It has three sub-domains: emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment and self-confidence. The second domain, self-regulation is marked by one’s ability to manage one’s internal states, impulses and resources. The following indicators depict this ability: self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, and innovation. The third domain, self-motivation illustrates emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals. Its indicators are achievement drive, commitment, initiative and optimism.

Social competencies describe how one determines his or her ability to handle relationship (personal as well as professional). The first domain, empathy, which marked this competency, is explained by five sub-domains, specifically; understanding others, developing others, service orientation, leveraging diversity and political awareness. Eight sub-domains explain the social skills and they are; influence, communication, conflict management, leadership, change catalyst, building bonds, collaborating and cooperation and team capabilities.

Research Methodology

This exploratory study is actually a part of a bigger study under a grant provided by the Malaysian government to examine emotional intelligence of Malaysian workforce. The study involves two phases. The first phase was conducted using qualitative approach to research method, while the second phase employ a cross-sectional study that use a questionnaire as instrument to collect the data needed to answer the research questions. One hundred and eighty secondary schools teachers were involved in the first phase of the study and, six hundred and forty teachers were involved in the second phase of this study, 338 of them teaching in Malaysian boarding schools, while the remaining (n=302) were teaching in the Malaysian daily school. These teachers were selected randomly from a pool of teachers teaching in Malaysian secondary school, from three separate zones (northern, middle and southern part of Malaysia). An interview protocol was used to explore attributing factors that contribute to emotional intelligence. The protocol has five sets of open-ended question arranged consecutively to represent a focus group interview protocol. The second phase of the study used an instrument, the Malaysian Emotional Quotient Inventory (MEQI) developed by a group of researchers from the National University of Malaysia. This instrument consists of 262 items on a five-point Likert scale. The items measure domains of emotional intelligence emerged during the focus group interview. Reliability check on the domains revealed values of alpha Cronbach that range from 0.87 to 0.97. Therefore, the instrument used has high reliability values.


Data from the first phase of the study was analyzed using NUD*IST software, and a number of additional domain and sub-domains to explain emotional intelligence among the subjects being studied were found. All the five domains suggested by Goleman (1999) were retained. However, there were additional subdomains to explain emotional intelligence for self-awareness, self-motivation and, empathy (refer to Table 1). Sub-domain “Intention” was added to self-awareness, sub-domain “Interest” was added to self-motivation, and sub-domains “Compassion” and “Helping Others” were added to empathy.

Two additional domains also emerged from the focus group interview. The domains are spirituality and maturity. Spirituality is defined by one’s feelings towards his or her creation and how those feelings help in maintaining emotional stability, while maturity illustrate the ability to use life experience to increase maturity that in turn affects emotional stability.

Table 2 shows correlation values of all emotional intelligence domains. All values are found to be positive; indicating an increase in one domain will increase the other domain. All values are also found to be significantly correlated (at alpha level of .01) to each other except correlation values between self-awareness and spirituality, self-awareness and maturity, self-regulation and spirituality, and self-motivation and maturity. The values range from low to moderately high correlation.

The highest correlation value was found between empathy and social skills (r=.614, p=.000), followed by self-awareness and self-regulation (r=515, p=.000), and self-regulation and self-motivation (r=.507, p=.000). These values suggest variance association of 26% to 38% between the variables being correlated. It is also interesting to note that empathy correlate moderately with social skills. This suggests that teacher who empathizes with others also have good social skills and 38% of total variance of empathy contribute to social skills.

Table 3 shows difference in mean and percentage score for each domains for all subjects (n=640). Spirituality received the highest percentage (88.875) followed by maturity (86.23%), empathy (75.55%), self-motivation (74.47%), self-awareness (72.17%), self-regulation (68.32%) and social skills (67.41%). It is also interesting to note that social skills received the lowest score as compared to other domains.

Table 4 shows mean difference of emotional intelligence (total score of all domains) between teachers teaching in two different schools (MRSM-boarding school and daily government schools). Mean for the boarding school teachers is 837.07 while mean for daily government secondary school teachers is 800.39. The mean difference is 36.69 (Table 5) and this value is significant at 0.05 alpha level (t=2.409, p=.016). The boarding school teachers have higher mean value when compared to their counterparts. This suggests that teachers from the first group have higher emotional intelligence score than the second group.

Discussion and Conclusion

Although findings from this study was able to show the existence of the five domains of emotional intelligence suggested by Goleman (1999), however, they are not enough to describe emotional intelligence among the Malaysian teachers. These teachers seem to suggest that spirituality and maturity plays a role in developing stable emotion. The high percentage score received by these two domains show this. Concomitantly, the idea of reaching out to God helps the teachers to give vent to their negative feelings. Adding these to their ability to be aware of their feeling and to self-motivate themselves to function effectively at their workplace, these teachers can be excellent performers.

Findings from the study also show that self-awareness correlates positively with self-regulation and the correlation value is moderately high. Self-awareness is about looking introspectively into oneself, while self-regulation is marked by ones’ ability to manage internal states, impulses and resources. Therefore, this suggests that the teachers have the ability to look at their strengths and weaknesses, and manage them effectively. The study also shows moderately high positive correlation between empathy and social skills. This suggests that teachers try to understand and help develop their students’ potential using effective communication skills. They are able to influence their students, manage conflict well, and nurture instrumental relationship with their students. The more empathy the teachers have towards their students, the harder they will try to use effective social skills and this is in agreement with teachers’ work ethics suggested by the Malaysian Ministry of Education. Therefore, self-awareness, and self-regulation should be parallel to each other. Teachers from the boarding school also have higher emotional intelligence when compared to their counterparts. This could be due to the teaching and learning environment that is challenging and demand the teachers to have stable emotion.

Implication towards Teacher-Students Relationship and Future Research

Teachers and students compliment each other’s, and both play an important role in developing favorable teaching and learning environment. Teachers with high emotional intelligence excel in their job because they are always open to new ideas and always try to seek feedback about their teaching from students. This will open a communication pathway that enables students to feel more attach to their teachers. Bowlby (1988) suggests that when a child is attached to someone the child will seek proximity to and contact with the individual and to do so especially in certain specified conditions. Therefore, needy students will seek their teachers’ help every time they feel uncertain or in trouble. This promotes better teacher-students relationship.

Teachers teaching in this era of borderless world are also faced with more students that are creative and innovative in their learning techniques (and sometimes notorious in their behavior), and this creates needs for new kind of teacher-student relationship. Inevitably, teachers need to adapt to the new teacher-student relationship. However, adaptability requires the flexibility to take into account multiple perspectives on a given situation (Goleman 1999), and this flexibility depends, in turn, on an emotional strength, the ability to stay comfortable with ambiguity, and remain calm in the case of the unexpected. Teachers who are flexible are more confident, and they have the ability to quickly adjust their responses, especially when realities about their teaching and learning process shift to a new dimensions. Subsequently, teachers with high emotional intelligence will not make haste decision even when their students display unruly behaviors. This will promote better understanding between teacher and student, and students will feel nurtured and supported by their teachers.

Research on emotional intelligence among teachers are very few and far in between. This particular research itself is one of the few researches on emotional intelligence that was conducted among Malaysian teachers. However, Malaysian Ministry of Education has recommended the need to look into emotional intelligence and integrate it with the teachers’ training curriculum. Therefore, salient to this, more research on emotional intelligence should be conducted to explore the issue among teachers with different qualification and teaching background. Goleman (1999) also suggested that emotional intelligence capacities or competencies build upon one another. The question is, at what stage this building occurs and how it occurs? Therefore, a longitudinal study that examine the developmental stage of the emotional intelligence among new teachers should also be conducted, and these could help teacher educators develop interventions to increase emotional intelligence among teachers throughout their teaching career. In view of the fact that this paper argues about quality teachers that beget quality students, therefore, a study should also be conducted to examine emotional intelligence of the students and explore if the emotional intelligence of these students mirrors that of their teachers. Finally yet importantly, a study should also be conducted to examine relationship between emotional intelligence, committed to teaching profession and attachment to organization among teachers with high emotional intelligence. This can help promote understanding about how these teachers function inside and outside the world of education.


Berita Harian 7th August 2003.

Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York: Basic Books

Goleman, D (1999). Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Book.

Grasha, A.F. (1996). Teaching with styles. Cincinnati: Allience Pub.

New Strait Times 12th August 2000

Noriah, M.I., Ramlee, M. & Norehah, K. (2002). Personality profile of technical and non- technical students. International Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 10(2), 61-72.

Rosnah (2003). Profil personality guru-guru. Laporan Projek Sarjana Pendidikan, Fakulti Pendidikan, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Skovholt, T. & D’Rozario, V. 2000. Portraits of outstanding and inadequate teachers in Singapore: The impact of emotional intelligence. Teaching and Learning. 21(1): 9-17.

Weisenger, H. (2000). Emotional intelligence at work. San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.

Utusan Malaysia 4th January 2002

Utusan Malaysia 2 th April 2001

1 comment:

  1. Pak Doktor,selamat kembali ke lampung. semoga kita bisa bersama-sama beramal melalui melalui dunia akademik amin.