Today, the concept of emotional intelligence is based upon an extensive theoretical base and an ample body of research. The corporate world has long recognized the need for social skills and emotional intelligence (EI) in improving performance and advancing one’s career. It is not surprising that many companies have now introduced leadership training with a strong focus on EI. Though swayed by the trend later than other sectors, the field of education is not an exception. The US education system has set ambitious goals, and their successful accomplishment is contingent on education leaders’ ability to guide and motivate school teachers, among other things. It is common knowledge that EI encompasses skills that can be learned and refined (Sánchez-Núñez, Patti & Holzer, 2015). However, the question remains whether educational programs may actually be effective in acquiring desirable traits. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to understand whether a postgraduate development program for school leaders can lead to enhanced results in terms of assertiveness, openness, empathy, and mental well-being.
Population and Sample
Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) recruited aspiring school leaders from three urban universities located in New York City. It is not exactly clear how potential participants were initially contacted. However, using the available information, it is safe to conclude that Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) used convenience sampling. Whereas convenience sampling indeed saves time and other resources, this method significantly compromises the generalizability of the results. There is also space for bias based on why some individuals choose to take part while others choose not too. As for ethical considerations, the study was approved by the Research and Ethics Committee, the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The participation was voluntary, and all participants signed a consent form in the beginning and at the end of the experiment.
Though originally designed as a controlled trial, the study had to be transformed into quasi-experimental and investigate the effects of the intervention on the same sample. Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) provide a detailed description of the sample and its major characteristic. Thirty-two school leaders, ten men and 22 women, participated in the study. The sample is diverse in terms of age (26-63 years old, M = 32.74, SD = 7.46) and race (60% Caucasians, 12% Latinos, 12% African Americans, 3% Asians, 9% Black Americans, and 4% mixed). The minimal acceptable sample size for dependent sample t-test depends on the effect size. Assuming that the confidence interval is 95%, the Type II error rate is 20%, the effect size is 0.5, and SD = 1, the minimal sample size is 34. Hence, the present study has an almost adequate number of participants.
The key instrument for data collection was questionnaires that were not specifically developed for the study but borrowed from the existing body of research. The factors that Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) found to be of interest are (1) assertiveness; (2) reactivity; (3) the Big Five personality traits (extraversion (E), agreeableness (A), conscientiousness (C), neuroticism (N) and openness to experience (O)); (4) depression; (5) mood; (6) emotional intelligence; and (7) emotional social competency. The only factor that is not given a sufficient description is the Big Five personality traits as each of the subscales could benefit from more elaboration.
Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) selected seven questionnaires matching all the relevant EI-related dimensions based on two criteria. Firstly, they had to have adequate psychometric properties in terms of validity and reliability. Secondly, the questionnaires must have been used extensively in other studies. The contents and the purpose of each instrument are sufficiently described. Besides, it is exhaustingly clear how the results for each questionnaire are scored. All the instruments employ a Likert scale (from zero to five or six) that measures how much respondents identify themselves with the suggested statements. To test the inner consistency of the questionnaire, Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) calculated Cronbach’s alpha that ranged from 0.65 to 0.98 for different dimensions and subscales.
Research Question(s) & Hypotheses with Analysis and Results
Research Question. Will the postgraduate development program impact the selected traits in school leaders?
- H0. The postgraduate development program will not make a difference in terms of the selected traits in school leaders.
- H1. The postgraduate development program will make a difference in terms of the selected traits in school leaders.
To understand the effect size of the intervention, Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) calculated descriptive (mean, standard deviation) and inferential (t-value) statistics for all factors and subscales measured by the questionnaires. Student’s paired t-test showed no statistically significant difference for assertiveness, personality, empathy, mental health EI self-report, and EI executed. Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) do not share t-values for these factors; the only information available is the confidence interval (CI = 0.95). The only factor that showed changes after the intervention is emotional, social competency measured by the ESCI-U Self Ratings questionnaire. The most pronounced effect is observed in the subscale adaptability (pre M = 3.94, post M = 4.36, t-value = -4.44, p-value = 0.000). Other noteworthy subscales are self-management (pre M = 4.08, post M = 4.43, t-value = -3.79, p-value = 0.001) and emotional self-control (pre M = 3.83, post M = 4.41, t-value = -4.32, p-value = 0.000). Conversely, influence and emotional self-awareness appeared non-responsive to the intervention, so the alternative hypothesis in regard to those traits was rejected (p values = 0.183 and 0.075 respectively).
Conclusions and Implications
The generalizations are consistent with the results: Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) admit that while the program increased school leaders’ perceived social awareness and relationship management, it did not impact self-awareness and self-management. The authors are well aware of the study’s limitations, such as the sample size, the lack of control group, and the rather short duration of the training. Following the study’s limitations, Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) hope that future research will include control groups to improve the understanding of the effect size. Other recommendations include identifying specific activities, matching them with desired competencies, and controlling for them during statistical analysis. Apart from that, Sánchez-Núñez et al. (2015) wish for better measures of behavioral change that would match or not match perception adjustment.
Overall, the research was well-presented, especially when it comes to well-structured tables. It appears as if the study could benefit from a more detailed explanation of the participants’ background, such as their current job position and educational background. Despite this omission, the article still adds value to the body of research by indicating the need for updated leadership training that would focus more on specific “soft” competencies. While reviewing this article, I realized the importance of breaking a complex concept, such as EI, into factors and facets, instead of treating it as a monolith phenomenon.
Sánchez-Núñez, M. T., Patti, J., & Holzer, A. (2015). Effectiveness of a leadership development program that incorporates social and emotional intelligence for aspiring school leaders. Journal of Educational Issues, 1(1), 64-84.