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Received: 15 June 2018 | Accepted: 9 November 2018

DOI: 10.1002/pits.22218

RESEARCH ARTICLE

The relationship between teachers’


emotional intelligence and classroom
discipline management

Sabina Valente1 | Ana Paula Monteiro1 | Abílio Afonso Lourenço2

1
Department of Education and Psychology,
University of Trás‐os‐Montes and Alto Douro, Abstract
Vila Real, Portugal One of the fundamental problems of educational systems in
2
Psychology and Education Investigation
many countries is related to classroom discipline. This reflects
Centre of Alexandre Herculano Secondary
School, Porto, Portugal one of the worst problems faced by teachers. Classroom
discipline management strategies play an effective role in
Correspondence
Sabina Valente, Department of Education and creating positive teacher‐student relationships. One of the
Psychology, University of Trás‐os‐Montes and
factors that influence behavior management in a classroom is
Alto Douro. Pólo I, 5001‐801 Vila Real,
Portugal. emotional intelligence. Therefore, this study analyzing how
Email: sabinavalentte@gmail.com
teachers emotional intelligence influences the management
of discipline in a classroom and the relationship between
gender, academic formation, and service time of teachers
with their emotional intelligence. Its sample comprises 559
basic and secondary school teachers. An Emotional Compe-
tence Questionnaire, a Scale of Teacher Efficacy in Classroom
Management, and a personal and professional data inquiry
have been used as instruments. Results show that teachers
who have more capacity to deal with emotion demonstrate a
greater management of discipline in the classroom. Most of
the relationships in the model are statistically significant.

KEYWORDS
classroom discipline management, emotional intelligence, teachers

1 | INTRODUCTION

Building a successful classroom community takes effort, focus, planning, and a consistent and systematic approach
to the process. It does not occur automatically in most classrooms (Berenji & Ghafoori, 2015). Teachers experience
very high demanding requirements in a school environment, a lot of work, indiscipline, complicated school relations,
pressures, and critiques of parents and society (Okeke & Dlamini, 2013).

Psychol Schs. 2018;1–10. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/pits © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. | 1


2 | VALENTE ET AL.

Classroom discipline management strategies play an effective role in creating positive teacher‐student
relationships. So, the importance of developing emotional intelligence (EI) in teachers is increasingly perceptible,
with the aim of developing skills that provide a rewarding and effective workforce in their work. According to
Goleman (2010), Bar‐On (1997), and Mayer, Caruso, and Salovey (1999) one of the factors that influence behavior
management in the classroom is EI.
Education system currently causes stress through the entire educational community because it’s being guide‐
based in a rhetoric transmission of information, valuing quantitative and nonqualitative learning (Nunes‐Valente &
Monteiro, 2016). This type of routine practice, without analysis, without criticism and without dialogue, weakens
the emotional development of teachers and students, nullifying any active participation of the student, and
converting the programmatic content into something without emotion; which impoverishes the participation and
performance of the students (Barrantes‐Elizondo, 2016), fostering disinterest, demotivation, and the increasing of
indiscipline in classroom (Extremera & Fernández‐Berrocal, 2004).
In this context, the starting point for this study emerged: What is the importance of EI in the management of
discipline in the classroom?

2 | EMOTIONA L I NT ELL IGEN CE AND CLA S SROOM DISCIP LINE


MANAGEMENT

According to Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso (2004) emotions are one of the three fundamental groups of mental
operations which contain motivation, emotion, and cognition. Therefore, a person with good emotions should be
able to think positively and be productive and vice versa. Accordingly, emotional intelligence is considerate a
mixture of the terms emotion and intelligence, which are related to each other (Hamidi & Khatib, 2016).
Mayer and Salovey (1997) reformulated the initial concept of EI, created by them in 1990, presenting a revised
and more complete definition. They considered EI a capacity focused on the processing of emotional information
that unites emotion and reasoning, allowing the use of emotions to facilitate effective reasoning.
A theoretical model of emotional capacities, by Salovey and Mayer, highlights the set of operations that intelligence
performs to process and benefit emotions, involving abstract thinking and problem solving (Mayer & Salovey, 1997). It is
formed by four capacities that interact with each other: (a) perception, evaluation, and emotional expression alludes to the
degree to which individuals can conveniently identify their emotions, as well as their physiological and cognitive states and
sensations (Ivcevic et al., 2010). Ability to also recognize emotions in others form of expression (e.g., art and music) and
other stimulating factors (Salovey & Grewal, 2005); (b) emotional facilitation of thought, ability to generate feelings that
facilitate thinking. Enrolled the way emotions act in our thinking and the way information is processed, it also involves the
use of emotion to improve the cognitive process; (c) emotional understanding, ability to recognize emotions and relate
them to their meaning; and (d) emotional regulation, ability to manage and regulate emotions for itself and for others,
moderating negative emotions, and increasing positive emotions.
When a teacher tries to manage his emotions, he often manages to modify his and others feelings (Fernández‐Berrocal
& Extremera, 2005), providing coping strategies (Lazarus, 2000) that focus on emotion alteration or problem resolution.
Classroom management covers a wide range of techniques, one of them is discipline. Discipline, as Scrivener
(2012) said is “certainly one area of classroom management, but it is only one, and, interestingly, many of the
biggest problems associated with keeping order are often best answered by dealing with other seemingly separate
issues of classroom management” (p. 2).
That way, classroom discipline management refers to control time and behavior of students (Fredrick, Deitz,
Bryceland, & Hummel, 2000). Classroom discipline management involves teachers encouraging positive social
interactions as well as active management in learning and self‐motivation (Jeloudar & Yunus, 2011). They shape a
positive learning society in which the students are actively engaged in the individual education process and
classroom management.
VALENTE ET AL. | 3

Al‐Hamdan (2007) affirmed that an effective classroom management means to: minimize tension inside the
classroom, moderate students’ behavior, listen to students’ ideas, encourage students to do better, and pay
attention to their requirements.
Therefore, the existence of disruptive behavior has been shown to be one of the main problems faced by teachers
(Demir, 2009; McCarthy, Lineback, & Reiser, 2015). These behaviors alter the functioning of class and compromise
learning, making impossible to achieve the desired results, so they are considered as indiscipline (Sun & Shek, 2012).
Studies show that management of classroom discipline reflects an essential requirement for cognitive learning
and if the teacher cannot solve the problems derived from the unruly and conflicting behaviors of students, the
whole process of teaching and learning will be compromised (Valente, 2015). The research results of Nizielski,
Hallum, Lopes, and Schütz (2012) point out that teachers with high EI establish good working relationships with
students and are attentive to their needs. In its turn, the results of the study by Anari (2012) indicate that there is a
positive and significant relationship between emotional intelligence and job satisfaction. Pugazhenthi and
Srinivasan (2018) concluded in their investigation that using emotional intelligence skills are strategies formed to
score high at teaching efficiency.
Other studies show that teachers with high EI scores deal more constructively with negative situations and
were more likely to seek positive solutions (Perry & Ball, 2007); as well as the positive self‐assessment of teachers
in EI is related to perceived efficacy in responding to students and in managing the classroom (Di Fabio &
Palazzeschi, 2008).
Some studies have analyzed the role of sociodemographic variables (e.g., gender, service time, and academic
formation) of teachers in EI. These studies reveal high overall EI scores for females compared with males (Anari,
2012; Gill & Sankulkar, 2017; Sangeetha, 2017).
On the other hand, despite the influence of service time on teachers’ EI, the studies found do not present
consensual results (Myint & Aung, 2016; Sousa, 2011). Teachers who have taught for less than 6 years have greater
emotional perception and are able to regulate their negative emotional states and prolong the positive ones,
contrary to their colleagues with more than 6 years of service time (Sousa, 2011), opposing to the results of Myint
and Aung (2016).
Some researchers suggest that teachers with more academic formation (e.g., doctorate) are the ones who pay
the most attention to their emotions (Fernandes, 2015; Sousa, 2011). Gregório (2008) also corroborates these data,
verifying that those who have more academic qualifications are also those who present higher values for the
capacity “management of emotions in groups,” followed by those who have a degree and, finally, those who have a
bachelor’s degree.
In this sequence, the following hypotheses were stated: Hypothesis (a) A significant consequence of the interaction
between gender, service time, academic formation, and EI dimensions of teachers is expected; and Hypothesis (b) A
significant consequence of dimensions of teacher EI is expected in relation to classroom discipline management.

3 | METHOD

3.1 | Participants
The sample of the study comprises 559 basic and secondary school teachers from 18 northern Portuguese schools.
One hundred and sixty‐eight (30.1%) teachers were male and 391 (69.9%) female. Of these, 14 (2.5%) are
bachelors, 431 (77.1%) have a graduation, 106 (19.0%) hold a master’s degree and 8 (1.4%) have a doctorate.
According to their service time, 37 (6.6%) teachers have less than 10 years of service, 157 (28.1%) have between 11
and 20 years. In the range of 21–30 years there are 244 (43.6%) teachers and 121 (21.6%) have more than 30 years
of practice. The sample of the study was of convenience. Regarding the sample, there was a concern in selecting a
number of individuals that guaranteed to exceed, with a large margin of safety, or the value 200 of the Hoelter
index (Hoelter, 1983), and the optimal suggestion of 10 individuals for each item/variable analyzed (Byrne, 2010).
4 | VALENTE ET AL.

3.2 | Measures
The EI was assessed by the Questionnaire on Emotional Competence (QEC; Faria & Lima‐Santos, 2012), including
45 items divided into three dimensions: emotional perception with 15 items (e.g., When I meet someone I know, I
will soon understand his disposition); emotional expression, 14 items (e.g., I can express my feelings and emotions in
words); and emotional regulation, 16 items (e.g., I can keep my spirits up, even if something bad happens). The
answers were evaluated on a 6‐point Likert scale, varying from 1 (never) to 6 (always), presenting a value of 0.89 for
the Cronbach α total of the scale, with reliability values in each dimension of 0.76 (emotional expression), 0.84
(emotional perception), and 0.83 (emotional regulation).
To evaluate the answers regarding discipline management in the classroom, we used the instrument developed
by Emmer and Hickman (1991). It integrates three dimensions, namely: personal teaching efficacy; external
influences; and classroom management/discipline. In this study, only the last dimension was applied, adapted, and
validated to Portuguese basic and secondary school teachers, for Nunes‐Valente, Monteiro, and Lourenço (2017).
This has a dimension 15 items (e.g., If a student in my class becomes disturbing and noisy, I make sure I know
techniques to correct it quickly), presenting 0.89 Cronbach α values. The answers were evaluated on a Likert scale
with 5 points: from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
To collect information that would characterize the sample, it was applied a Personal and Professional Data
Sheet containing some questions about individual and professional data of teachers (gender, academic formation,
and service time).

3.3 | Procedures
The study was approved by the Directorate General for Education through the platform of the System of
Monitoring of Inquiries in School Environment for the application of the same in teachers. Later, the authorization
from the contacted schools was obtained, and the instruments were applied by the researchers in a meeting
context to the teachers, in which they were informed about the research objective and were appealed to their
collaboration. The teachers were very receptive, and the conventional ethical and deontological procedures were
guaranteed, namely the confidentiality of the answers and the willingness to participate. Evaluation instruments
were applied in the academic year 2015/2016.

4 | RES U LTS

All the data referenced in the questionnaires were considered valid. For the identification of the causal model in the
modeling of structural equations, two aspects were considered: (a) a measurement model, which corresponds to
the confirmatory factorial analysis and which expresses the appropriation of the variables observed as markers of
the respective factors or latent variables; and (b) a structural model or causal relationships between latent
variables. Once the model has been delineated, the veracity of all relationships defined between the variables, in
total, is tested in what is called “global fit of the model,” that is, the adequacy of the model to the data matrix is
verified. This overall adjustment is inferred on the basis of a set of indices (e.g., χ2, p, GFI, AGFI, CFI, TLI, and
RMSEA), designated the global adjustment indices of the model. However, Byrne (1994) points out that if the model
is adjusted and can describe the theory, it could not be considered, however, that is the only possible model in the
description of the relations between the variables. A diversity of models may be equally adequate for the
researcher, in view of substantive criteria, to justify the adoption of the selected model.
The of structural equations model (SEM) was used to inquire whether teachers’ EI influences the classroom
discipline management, as well as to ascertain the relevance of personal and professional variables in emotional
capacities of teachers (Figure 1).
VALENTE ET AL. | 5

FIGURE 1 Pictorial specification of causal relations model with the values of standardized estimates in the sample

Figure 1 specifies the hypothesized model for the 559 teachers in the sample. The overall goodness indices of
proposed SEM are very robust (χ2 = 5.714; p = 0.222; χ2/df = 1.429; GFI = 0.997; AGFI = 0.980; CFI = 0.982;
TLI = 0.904; RMSEA = 0.028), assuring hypothesis that presented SEM exposes the relations between variables
patent in our empirical matrix.
Table 1 shows the descriptive data (mean, standard deviation, asymmetry, and kurtosis) for the variables
included in the model. The criteria established by Finney and DiStefano (2006) is that asymmetry values greater
than 2 and kurtosis higher than 7 should not be considered. In this sample, no variable presents values close to
these criteria, so it is justified to proceed with the estimation of the fit of the model.
From the analysis of Figure 1 and Table 2, it can be verified that the hypotheses that directed the specifications
were confirmed and, for the most part, are statistically significant. Female gender exhibits better results than the
opposite gender in all dimensions of EI, namely the positive relationships verified with emotional regulation
(β = 0.13; p < 0.01), emotional expression (β = 0.10; p < 0.05), and emotional perception (β = 0.01; p = ns), although
the latter is not statistically significant.
Regarding the service time, teachers with more experience have lower EI in three dimensions of this construct,
namely with emotional regulation (β = −0.05; p = ns), emotional perception (β = 0.02; p = ns), and emotional
expression (β = −0.10; p < 0.05), the latter is statistically significant.
6 | VALENTE ET AL.

T A B L E 1 Descriptive statistics corresponding to the variables included in the model


Variables Mean SD Asymmetry Kurtosis
Gender – – −0.870 −1.243
Service time – – −0.259 −0.589
Academic formation – – 1.196 2.173
Emotional perception 67.7 10.6 −0.943 3.578
Emotional expression 64.4 8.94 −0.776 3.493
Emotional regulation 72.1 10.5 −1.309 5.202
Classroom discipline management 37.7 15.1 0.171 −0.612
Note. SD: standart deviation

With regard to academic training, teachers with higher literacy rates have higher EI in all dimensions,
specifically with emotional perception (β = 0.09; p < 0.05), with emotional regulation (β = 0.10; p < 0.05) and with
emotional expression (β = 0.12; p < 0.01). Relationships are positive and statistically significant.
Considering the relationships between dimensions of two constructs, it can be seen that teachers who present
greater emotional perception show less classroom discipline management (β = −0.10; p < 0.05). Teachers who show
more emotional regulation present greater classroom discipline management (β = 0.11; p < 0.05). Teachers with
higher levels of emotional expression present greater classroom discipline management (β = 0.05; p = ns), and this
relation is not statistically significant. It is also verified that teachers with higher values of emotional perception
(β = 0.12; p < 0.01) and emotional expression (β = 0.17; p < 0.001) also have a greater capacity to emotional
regulation, with the relationships being statistically significant.
As for the exogenous variables, it can be mentioned that female gender has less service time (β = −0.05; p = ns)
and a lower academic level (β = −0.05; p = ns). These relationships are not statistically significant. However, teachers
with more time of service have lower academic qualifications (β = −0.15; p < 0.001), and this relation is statistically
significant (cf. Figure 1).

T A B L E 2 Results of covariance structure contrast hypothesized for the sample


Variable EVnS SEV EE p
Gender → Emotional perception 302 0.013 0.981 0.758
Gender → Emotional expression 1.921 0.099 0.813 0.018
Gender → Emotional regulation 2.950 0.129 0.929 0.001
Service time → Emotional perception −0.270 −0.022 0.534 0.614
Service time → Emotional expression −1.038 −0.099 0.442 0.019
Service time → Emotional regulation −0.610 −0.050 0.505 0.228
Academic formation → Emotional perception 1.925 0.088 0.937 0.040
Academic formation → Emotional expression 2.147 0.116 0.777 0.006
Academic formation → Emotional regulation 2.127 0.099 0.892 0.017
Emotional perception → CDM −0.146 −0.103 0.060 0.015
Emotional expression → CDM 0.088 0.052 0.072 0.221
Emotional regulation → CDM 0.160 0.111 0.062 0.010
Emotional perception ➙ Emotional regulation 0.119 0.121 0.040 0.003
Emotional expression ➙ Emotional regulation 0.204 0.174 0.048 0.000
Note. CDM: Classroom Discipline Management; EE: Estimated Errors; EVnS: Estimated Values not Standardized;
p: significance level; SEV: Standardized Estimated Values; →: relationship between variables.
VALENTE ET AL. | 7

Regarding the multiple square correlations, these indicate that exogenous variables gender, service time, and
academic formation explain emotional perception in 1% (η2 = 0.009), emotional expression in about 4% (η2 = 0.036),
and emotional regulation with a value close to 9% (η2 = 0.089). Regarding the variable management/discipline in the
classroom, it is explained indirectly by the exogenous variables, and directly, by variables emotional perception,
emotional expression, and emotional regulation in approximately 3% (η2 = 0.025).
Analyzing Pearson’s R correlation between variables included in SEM is still possible to verify that emotional
regulation is the only dimension associated with all other variables in SEM. Although associations may be
considered weak or very weak (between r = 0.097** and r = 0.219**), they are statistically significant, which
indicates some cohesion between the variables under study.

5 | D IS C U S S IO N

Regardless of the relevance granted to EI and classroom discipline management is relatively recent, studies
highlight the importance that development of EI’s capabilities presents in teaching a class (Extremera & Fernández‐
Berrocal, 2004; Hen & Sharabi‐Nov, 2014; Ruiz‐Aranda et al., 2010).
Focusing on the role of EI in classroom discipline management, the results of this study indicate that the way in
which teachers’ perceive their emotions, express them, and internalize their capacity to emotional regulation,
influences their praxis, essentially in the understanding they have about their own ability to manage all kinds of
experiences developing in the microspace of the classroom.
Regarding the relationship between gender, the female always has better results than male, in all dimensions of
EI. When related emotional perception in both, the less‐quoted item is what you mention when you try to hide your
true feelings. If gender is associated with emotional expression, the most valued item is one that alludes to being
able to recognize most of their feelings, followed by “I can describe my current emotional state” to women, and “I
can state that I know well my emotional state” for men. The less‐punctuated item in both, reports that “people are
always able to describe my mood.” When we relate gender to emotional regulation, the punctuation given in both is
identical and falls to the allusion to the fulfillment of duties and obligations with promptness, instead of thinking
about them.
Regarding service time, teachers with more teaching experience are those who present worse results in the
three dimensions of EI. When the academic instruction of teachers is considered, the data indicate that teachers
with the highest academic value are the ones that obtain the best results in three dimensions of EI.
Considering the existing relationships between dimensions of two constructs, it could be seen that teachers
who present greater emotional perception demonstrate less classroom discipline management, in turn, teachers
with higher levels of emotional expression and emotional regulation present greater management of discipline in
the classroom. It was verified that teachers with higher values of perception and emotional expression present
greater competence to deal with emotion.
In general, the results of this study are in line with other authors (Di Fabio & Palazzeschi, 2008; Nizielski et al.,
2012; Perry & Ball, 2007; Steiner & Perry, 2000). As Steiner and Perry (2000) prove, individuals with more EI are
able to manage and regulate their emotions, which gives them a higher quality of life and develop more stable
relationships with those around them. Being disciplined on an emotional level means being aware of one’s own
emotions and those of the other.
For Goleman (2010) it is the knowledge of personal competences that allows the individual to have the capacity
to manage his feelings. Greater emotional awareness enables one to be able to perceive how one’s emotions
influence behaviors. Consequently, when we see strengths and weaknesses we can also know which ones should be
strengthened. An individual with personal and social skills becomes capable of reflective introspection about his or
her competencies and how to progress throughout life. This is one of the factors to be emotionally intelligent.
8 | VALENTE ET AL.

6 | CONC LU SION S

An intelligent perception and management of the aspects associated with a daily praxis in the school context, by the
faculty, will be salutary for personal development of students, as well as for structuring of positive and self‐
regulating environments in their learning. It can be emphasized, in a general way that the results found to indicate
the components that constitute EI, consolidated in perceptions and emotional expressions, and in the capacity to
emotional regulation, positively influence the perceptions that teachers have about of their effectiveness in
classroom discipline management. Conscious this complexity experienced at school, it is expected that this
framework of successive constructions and reconstructions will design education for desirable renewal
commitments.
A teacher who presents emotional perception and expression skills easily perceives the students’ emotional
state and adapts their behavior, altering the activity within the class when they perceive that the students are
deconcentrated, also have the sensitivity to criticize a student who is more vulnerable, arranges the organization of
the tables in room according to the class, and separates the students who are likely to have more friction
(Fernández‐Berrocal & Extremera, 2005).
In future investigations within the EI framework of teachers and their classroom management, it is considered
necessary to develop studies to observe the influence of other personal, instructional, and motivational variables
with the objective to increase the explained variance of constructs under study. Similarly, it is suggested that, in
terms of methodological options, it may be pertinent to analyze through qualitative methodology some dimensions
related to this interconnection between the variables now under study, namely to deepen the meanings imputed to
the perceptions that professors refer to regarding the issues associated with each item that make up the scales.
Regarding the limitations of this study, it is worth mentioning the use of self‐response questionnaires to
evaluate the variables under study, which may lead the participants to answer with the socially observable. Another
limitation is that although the results obtained are robust, they could not be generalized to other cultural contexts.
The relevance of this study suggests that teachers' EI must be understood as something to be managed in a
constructive and proactive way. In this sense, it is defended the importance of the inclusion of the EI in the
academic and professional formation programs of the teachers that allow them a good emotional management, as
well as the development of their emotional capacities.
It is intended that the results of this study could help build a knowledge base that contributes to amplify a
framework of intelligibility that facilitates emotional environments and that could foster changes in pedagogical
practices.
Considering the importance of the variables under study, it is pertinent to carry out additional work that
continues to evaluate the structure of the proposed model and the relationships between its dimensions.

OR CID

Sabina Valente http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2314-3744


Ana Paula Monteiro http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4082-1474
Abílio Afonso Lourenço http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6920-0412

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How to cite this article: Valente S, Monteiro AP, Lourenço AA. The relationship between teachers’
emotional intelligence and classroom discipline management. Psychol Schs. 2018;1–10.
https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.22218