Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement in Primary Schools: Development and Initial Evaluation of the EMIL Programme

  • Catherine Nelson

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Academic achievement has traditionally been viewed as a product of cognitive abilities, separate to social and emotional skills; leading educators to question the value of developing emotional competence. However, there is emerging consensus that proficiency in both areas is required for success in the workplace and classroom. Accordingly, emotional intelligence has become a popular concept amongst both practitioners and researchers, but little is known about the construct in childhood; particularly in primary-school-aged children, for whom there is a lack of appropriate measurement tools. Given that it is believed to be developmental in nature, with findings from related fields of research suggesting the development of emotional intelligence abilities is heavily influenced by childhood experiences and interactions, it is important to develop an understanding of emotional intelligence in this age group.

    Following a review of the literature, this project aimed to contribute towards three key areas of emotional intelligence research in children. Taking an ability approach to emotional intelligence, it firstly progressed the measurement of ability emotional intelligence in primary-school-aged children. Secondly, it increased the limited knowledge regarding the connection between ability emotional intelligence and academic achievement in primary-school-aged children. Finally, it explored the possibility and benefits from provision of targeted support for children with below average ability emotional intelligence.

    To meet the need for a reliable performance measure of children’s emotional intelligence, Sullivan (1999)’s Emotional Intelligence Scale for Children (EISC) was revised in two stages. Firstly, the EISC was revised and updated creating EISCr1. Internal consistency, concurrent validity, content relevance and usability of the new measure were assessed in Study 1. Following this, EISCr1 was further refined to create EISCr2; Study 2, trialled this. Internal consistency, content relevance and usability were re-assessed and the factor structure explored. Results indicated important progress was made towards creating a valid performance emotional intelligence measure for children; the resulting measure, EISCr2, can reliably assess children’s global ability emotional intelligence, although the subtests require further improvement.

    The contribution of ability emotional intelligence to academic achievement was explored in 2 ways. Study 1 carried out 2 regression analyses to establish if emotional intelligence predicted maths and English achievement. Results indicated ability emotional intelligence independently contributed to prediction of academic achievement. Study 2 further provided tentative evidence that improvement in emotional intelligence may lead to improvement in maths achievement. In contrast, no improvements were found in English achievement.

    Using the 4-branch ability emotional intelligence model and assimilated research knowledge, the Emil programme was developed within the project to facilitate exploration of the feasibility and utility of providing specific targeted AEI support for 7-to 9-year-olds with below average ability emotional intelligence. This programme is the first known example of a targeted emotional intelligence support programme which specifically targets both pure ability emotional intelligence content and the specific population. The programme was evaluated in Study 2 using an intervention study design. Results suggested it is effective in developing children’s ability emotional intelligence within the target population.
    Date of Award11 Sept 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJanet Pitman (Supervisor) & Jane Prince (Supervisor)

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