Greek Teachers’ EQ Skills in Distance Learning

How did distance learning affect Greek Teachers’ Emotional Intelligence?

Teaching is admittedly one of the most demanding jobs, since teachers hold responsibility not only for educating and edifying students, but also for handling constant and unexpected challenges during class. Teachers engage in a plethora of emotional interactions with their students, the students’ parents, and their colleagues, while having to deal with their own emotions at the same time. Therefore, their need to develop their emotional skills (most of the times in an experiential manner) is undebatable, for them to be as efficient as possible on the numerous roles they take on.

2020 has been unprecedented for modern humanity. COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most — if not the most — disruptive events worldwide, heavily affecting all aspects of personal, interpersonal, and collective experience. The education community was not left unaffected, since all educational activities were forced to transition to the digital environment, utilizing a variety of online platforms, which allowed remote teaching. Τhe abrupt, vast and imperative nature of this transition gave teachers little time to adapt to a whole new reality, calling on them to respond immediately to the unforeseen and challenging conditions of telecommuting.

In the last semester of our studies at the Advertising and Public Relations Laboratory (Ad & PR Lab) of the Department of Communication, Media, and Culture of Panteion University, and specifically in the module of Leadership and Emotional Intelligence, we had the opportunity to conduct a research in order to to examine in depth the issues related to the Emotional Intelligence of primary and secondary school teachers during the quarantine. Our aim was to present all the emotional skills teachers had to utilize, in order to be efficient in the demanding context of distant teaching. Briefly, the research questions posed, are as follows:

  1. How easy was the transition and the adaptation to telecommuting and how did that affect the teachers’ emotional state?
  2. Which were the main emotional skills teachers had to develop/utilize in order for the classes to run smoothly?
  3. Are there different emotional demands between the two educational grades? If so, how are they justified?
  4. Did the e-learning treaty affect the demands regarding Emotional Intelligence?

Below you will find a brief overview of our research. Click here to download the full research report.

The concept of Emotional Intelligence is not new. As early as 1920, Edward Thorndike introduced the term “social intelligence”, describing the ability “to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls, to act wisely in human relationships”. In the early 1990s, Salovey & Mayer coined the term “Emotional Intelligence” as the ability to perceive emotions, identify their causes, integrate them into the way and thinking and manage the emotions of others. They, themselves, proposed a theoretical framework for analyzing Emotional Intelligence in four dimensions, which reflect mental processes, within which the management and processing of information related to emotion takes place.

However, it was Daniel Goleman, who popularized the concept of Emotional Intelligence, with his best-selling books. Goleman proposed the definition of Emotional Intelligence as the ability “to find motivation for yourself, to endure frustration, to control your impulse and to control your impatience, to properly regulate your mood and to prevent disappointment from stifling your ability to think, to have empathy and hope”.

For our research, we applied Bar-On’s theoretical framework, in which Emotional Intelligence is considered to be “a set of cognitive capabilities, skills, and abilities that affect one’s ability to successfully cope with environmental demands and pressure”. Based on the structure of the proposed model, Emotional-Social Intelligence is analyzed through five main components/categories of competencies, and 15 more specific, corresponding sub-components/competencies:

• Intrapersonal skills
• Interpersonal skills
• Adaptability
• Stress management
• General mood

As argued above, Emotional Intelligence skills are vital in the school environment. However little research has been undertaken so far to examine the concept in regard with the Greek teachers. In general, literary review confirms the correlation of teachers’ emotional skills to efficient and successful teaching.

Our research was carried out in May 2021 and for its implementation, we utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods, that is a sample survey, using a self-reporting questionnaire, followed by individual in-depth interviews with teachers. Our final sample consists of 230 teachers (193 women, and 36 men) of Primary and secondary education (n=166 & n=64 respectively), working in public and private schools nationwide.

First and foremost, the results of this research confirm previous studies results, that indicate mild differentiations in the Emotional Intelligence between men and women. More specifically, it confirms the fact that women have a greater ability in empathy than men, which is reportedly associated with biological factors. Similarly, the results pointed to the fact that Emotional Intelligence is contingent upon age, which, in the workplace can be associated with work experience and burnout. The age group between 45–54 consistently scored higher in EQ skills.

Furthermore, it is noted that Secondary school teachers are more tolerant of stressful situations, while at the same time they can be more assertive towards their students. As indicated by the present study, stress perseverance and assertiveness of the teachers, are directly related to the age of the students and the different requirements emerging from handling each. For example, Primary School teachers spend more time in class with their students (22 hours a week), forming stronger emotional bonds with them. On the other hand, Secondary school teachers devote their teaching hours in several classes, in a fragmented way. Similarly, the emotional maturity of students varies at each age, creating different requirements and conditions at each stage, when it comes to communication.

After having clarified the differences based on the independent variables of gender, age, and educational levels, the second phase of our analysis, attempts to compare the results of the present study to those of an earlier relevant one, conducted in 2007, by Mrs. Iordanoglou. It is worth noting, that the reference study was carried out prior to the 2008 financial crisis, and, therefore is a good measure of comparison to a crisis period, such as COVID-19 pandemic.

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The main observation was that intrapersonal and interpersonal skills were rated with higher scores before the pandemic. Teachers, themselves, interpreted this finding, pointing to personal insecurities that have emerged as a result of the unprecedented conditions of remote teaching and self-isolation. On the contrary, teachers reported to have considerably developed their skills on adaptability during quarantine. This finding is quite self-explanatory since the need for adjustment to this whole new situation is a common and global experience.

Finally, our research led to some interesting findings in regard with the specific aspects of Emotional Intelligence of teachers during quarantine. Non-verbal communication was correlated to class management and empathy issues. Teachers had difficulty expressing their feelings and reprimanding their students in online classes, since these modes of operation are not entirely based on verbal language but are rather expressed and perceived via body language and facial expressions. A 49-year-old First-grade teacher, says:

One particular student would turn on the microphone five times an hour and say different things … That way, she was interrupting, distracting me, taking time away from the other kids! It was for a fact really difficult to express my feelings and say what I was feeling at that particular moment…

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Furthermore, teachers’ stress and anxiety were reported to arise mainly due to technical mishaps, which made them feel like losing control of their online class. On the positive side, teachers stressed the point that online classes stood as an opportunity to attain new knowledge, broaden their teaching and methods, and increase their sense of independence. Common experience has pointed to the fact that digital illiteracy and technical issues concerned a high percentage of teachers, we asked F., a 50-year-old teacher to share her point of view:

Online tutoring led me to do various seminars on all these online tools, which I wish I had discovered earlier. I could have utilized them even before the pandemic to make my classes more interesting. I think it’s reasonable to seek help from others, and especially from younger people, who are deeply knowledgeable about technology, for stuff that are not relevant to my age and knowledge.

In conclusion, despite the difficulties, teachers were able to derive satisfaction from their work, while acknowledging that it took a lot of effort on their part, both in terms of practical issues and their Emotional Intelligence. F. confirms the above, saying: “If someone really wanted to work, they had all the tools to do it. For me, this whole process took me a step further”.

Follow @theintelligentteacher on Instagram! The first Greek academic project on Teachers’ Emotional Intelligence.

Course Convener: Dimitra Iordanoglou
Team Members: Maria Drasioudi, Panagiotis Theofanopoulos, Angelika Hazizi, Zelia Makri, Athina Manolaki, Giannis Papalambrou, Αφροδίτη Πουχτού, Christina Tsakona

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