The Relationship Between Emotions and Academic Success

Principals Pen Thursday, 30 Jul 2020

It has long been acknowledged that intelligence and conscientiousness are vital factors in students’ academic success. But are they the only factors?

A team of researchers in Australia and the UK recently published their findings after examining more than 150 studies on the link between emotional intelligence and academic performance. Their research revealed that, overall, emotional intelligence explains about 4% of differences in students’ academic achievement. Quite significantly, they found that the ability to understand emotions (which is an element of emotional intelligence) accounts for a whopping 12% of differences in academic achievement.

In other words, their research rates the ability to understand emotions (12%) significantly greater than conscientiousness (5%) and almost as supreme as intelligence (15%) in accounting for differences in academic performance.

So, what does it mean to understand emotions? The researchers write:

Students who can understand emotions can accurately label their own and others’ emotions. They know what causes emotions, how emotions change and how they combine. Students who can manage emotions know how to regulate their emotions in a stressful situation. They also know what to do to maintain good social relationships with others.

Living Faith supports students’ ability to understand emotions in a range of ways.

  1. Growth Mindset: A foundational element of Living Faith’s learning culture is that we normalise setbacks and encourage students to see mistakes as an essential feature in the learning process. This supports students in their ability to regulate emotions pertaining to learning. We aim for our students to be inspired by feedforward rather than discouraged by disappointment, and we aspire for them to love what’s difficult and to thrive amid inevitable struggle. We encourage them to take risks and to step forward, even when the road ahead is not entirely clear.
  2. Non-Academic Subjects: We hold in high esteem those subjects not traditionally viewed as academic (eg Performing Arts and Physical Education), recognising that self-expression, social analysis and universal themes are strong platforms from which students can springboard into a prosperous and well-rounded future.
  3. Social Interactions: We support students in their development of healthy community-oriented behaviours, whereby they seek to accept the rich array of differences that exist among their peers. We engage students in conversations that recognise the need to identify and respond not only to their peers’ words, but also their facial expressions and body language.
  4. Emotional Responses: We recognise that helping students to identify their emotions is as important as teaching them strategies to manage their emotional states. Students who behave in a way that causes distress to themselves or to their peers are supported to identify the triggers and subsequent emotions that cause them to react in such a way. The long-term goal in this process is to foster within students the ability to understand their own and their peers’ emotions, and to self-regulate.

Suffice to say, this meta-analysis wonderfully encapsulates elements of research that Living Faith has, for many years, adopted in order to give students every opportunity to reach their potential and experience success.

- Jane Mueller, Principal