Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Developing Emotional Intelligence as a Key Psychological Resource Reservoir for Sustained Student Success

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Developing Emotional Intelligence as a Key Psychological Resource Reservoir for Sustained Student Success

Article excerpt


The economy of a country is dependent on the degree to which its labour force is educated (Spaull, 2013). Student success in higher education holds the prospect of rewarding employment, but also the enhancement of cultural and social capital, increased health, and better standards of living (Yorke & Longden, 2005). Unfortunately, institutes for higher education in South Africa have an alarmingly low student success rate. For example, in 2012 Higher Education South Africa (HESA, 2012) reported that of 4 791 807 individuals between the ages of 20?24, only 18% had enrolled for higher education programmes. This meagre participation rate is threatened even further as a shocking 45% of enrolled students do not complete their studies, and 25% of individuals drop out after their first year of study (Mabelebele, 2012). These statistics highlight a clear threat to South Africa's skilled labour market. Research is needed to better understand predictors of student success at higher education institutions.

Mainstream research has mostly focussed on the predictive validity of cognitive abilities on academic achievement. IQ tests remain a prominent predictor of academic achievement (Grosman & Johnson, 1982; Neisser et al., 1996). Yet, despite its supremacy, IQ only accounts for roughly 25% of the variance in academic success (Neisser et al., 1996). Even more surprising is that students with higher cognitive ability do not always excel after school as expected, whilst those with more moderate intellectual abilities sometimes achieve greater success (Stein & Book, 2011). This suggests that other factors may play an important role in determining student success.

The role of EI in student success

It is argued in this study that a student's emotional intelligence could play a significant role in student success, as it could influence other personal resources (Lyubomirsky, King & Diener, 2005; Mayer & Salovey, 1997), such as:

* self-efficacy (Hen & Goroshit, 2012

* the ability to regulate affective states

* stress (Görgens-Ekermans & Brand, 2012)

* self-leadership (Manz, 1992).

These are all deemed to be important in increasing the chances of attaining academic success. Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the capacity to deal effectively with one's own and others' emotions. When applied to the academic environment, 'EI involves the capacity to effectively perceive, express, understand, and manage emotions in a professional and effective manner at work' (Palmer & Stough, 2001, p. 1), which is, when studying.

In this study EI is, therefore, viewed as a key personal resource that could facilitate the acquisition and maintenance of other psychological resources that may contribute to student success. A growing body of evidence suggests that exposure to an EI developmental intervention may improve EI (e.g. Nelis, Quoidbach, Mikolajczak & Hansenne, 2009; Fletcher et al., 2009; Wood, Wood, Zohar, Bates & Parker, 2006). The purpose of this study was, therefore, to investigate whether or not it is possible to elevate levels of EI and influence various psychological resources (e.g. affect balance, ASL, ASE, and perceived stress) in students, by exposing them to a developmental EI training intervention.

Theoretical approaches governing this study

Students mostly withdraw from university for reasons unrelated to their cognitive ability (Pancer, Hunsberger, Pratt & Alisat, 2000). Unique challenges (see Parker, Summerfeldt, Hogan & Majeski, 2004) and stressors (e.g. frequent evaluations, time pressures; Chambel & Curral, 2005) require higher levels of independence, initiative, and effective self-regulation (Bryde & Milburn, 1990; Zimmerman, 1989), and also a positive disposition and self-confidence (Chemers, Hu & Garcia, 2001), to maximise the chances of academic success. This study asserts that an individual's EI could play a significant role in overcoming these challenges. …

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