EDEV_506 Week 9_5

Thanks for filling out more details about how you see the role of emotional intelligence as it influences behaviours in higher educational leadership. Your command of the discipline of psychology is impressive, and I feel that I’ve learnt from your input.

To sum up your post (to see if I’ve understood it properly), attribution theory predicts behaviour based on the environmental context, but that individuals can use their previous unfortunate life experiences in similar contexts to avoid repetition in the future (Weiner, 1985). Thompson adds to the predictors and describes the processes that individuals use to ascribe, or attribute, their life outcomes to “four factors: ability, effort, task difficulty and luck” (Thompson, 2015). This fits in with human agency theories (Archer, 2007; Hitlin & Piliavin, 2004) that provide theoretical bases for humans’ ability to reconceptualise and empower their actions in contexts.

The four emotional competencies tested by Lopes and his team (2004); emotion regulation, emotion management, flexibility in attention focusing and the facilitation of “executive functions associated with the coordination of numerous skills required for social behaviour” (p. 1019), build up from elemental attributes to a fuller theory of social psychological behaviour. The argument being that those individuals who have more control over their elemental emotional behaviour will function better in society. (I’ll leave a definition of ‘better’ for the moment.) And by extension, educational leaders who have those skills will lead better.

There are a few issues relating to the direct application of EI studies in education theory. For example, the construct of emotional intelligence needs to be operationalised by a proxy measure (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011), in this case, by degrees of friendship reported by participants beyond Big Five characteristics that were controlled for (in the study by Lopes et al., 2004). Furthermore, all participants were college-age students, meaning that their ability to conceptualise their life experiences are necessarily more limited than mature adults whose prefrontal cortices are more fully formed (Mercier & Sperber, 2011). Taken together, I wonder if the findings in this study can be generalised onto educational leadership theory.

My three assumptions (from an earlier post) still apply here. But I’d like to add another consideration: the role of expertise may be more influential for leadership than any other single factor (Jones, Lefoe, Harvey, & Ryland, 2012). Which is likely to be more effective: a hard-headed individual who knows what to do, or a very pleasant person who has little clue? These two extremes are not so uncommon in leadership, and I wonder if the trend to prioritise EI may detract from a more rigorous study of what really comprises effectual leadership.



I’d like to instigate some educational change policies in this Ed.D. course in the module stage. Having no training or experience in psychology, yet education as a discipline feeds so much on psychology, some directed instruction (perhaps as masterclasses) in psychology would be of use to me and, I suspect, many others. Similarly, advanced intro masterclasses in sociology, statistics, management and other disciplines may be of more use than the current masterclass content—or at least as optional additions, if not to replace masterclasses.

The rationale behind this suggestion is that although we are all working professionals in higher education, our backgrounds are so diverse that only two options are available to the course designers. The first is to expect some knowledge of the feeder disciplines. Doing so will require those students who do not have that background to self-study the missing knowledge if they have the time. The second option is to ignore the input of any feeder discipline and keep the topics as broad as possible within the overall theme of research in higher education. This is the option that UofLiverpool have selected. The danger is that people can graduate with a doctoral level degree but still have some very serious weaknesses, or holes, in their professional education. Another way of interpreting this second option is that there is a separate discipline called ‘higher education’ that creates its own research agenda and methods. This position, though, is difficult to support.

The feeder discipline suggestion can help alleviate this risk. Just a thought.

Archer, M. S. (2007). Making our way through the world: Human reflexivity and social mobility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research Methods in Education. Professional Development in Education (7th ed.). Abingdon: Routledge. http://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2011.643130

Hitlin, S., & Piliavin, J. A. (2004). Values: Reviving a Dormant Concept. Annual Review of Sociology, 30(1), 359–393. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.30.012703.110640

Jones, S., Lefoe, G., Harvey, M., & Ryland, K. (2012). Distributed leadership: a collaborative framework for academics, executives and professionals in higher education. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34(1), 67–78. http://doi.org/10.1080/1360080X.2012.642334

Lopes, P. N., Brackett, M. A., Nezlek, J. B., Schütz, A., Sellin, I., & Salovey, P. (2004). Emotional intelligence and social interaction.Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(8), 1018–1034. http://doi.org/10.1177/0146167204264762

Mercier, H., & Sperber, D. (2011). Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(2), 57–74.

Thompson, S. (2015). Attribution Theory.  Research Starters: Education (Online Edition), 2015. Retrieved September 7, 2016

Weiner, B. (1985). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. Psychological Review, 92(4), 548–573. http://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org.library.smu.ca:2048/10.1037/0033-295X.92.4.548


About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a private university.
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