Emotional intelligence testing for headteachers: globalization or lost in translation

Joanne Cliffe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)
    344 Downloads (Pure)


    The emotional labor of headteachers and teachers is complex. This paper explores the relevance of the use of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence test (MSCEIT) (Mayer, Caruso & Salovey, 2000) when assessing the emotional intelligence of headteachers as part of an investigation which aimed to reveal the ways in which female secondary school leaders were emotionally intelligent and whether it was possible to test for emotional intelligence. Seven female headteachers’ MSCEIT reports are investigated. Semi-structured interviews were held pre- and post-test to explore the headteachers’ emotional labor. In addition, teachers serving under the headteachers were interviewed. The accuracy of the MSCEIT is questioned, rather than taking the results at face value, attention is given to its content, language and cultural differences. The MSCEIT originates from the USA and is used globally. The findings of this investigation suggest it is possible the MSCEIT represents a deficit model due to the test takers’ interpretation of nuanced language. The findings show a disparity in relation to MSCEIT scores and self-reported emotional responses. Although the sample size is small and therefore cannot claim generalization from the findings, the use of emotional intelligence tests should be used with caution. Emotional responses are best understood through life experience as the headteachers attach retrospective meaning to their leadership actions. Headteachers’ work is multifaceted because emotion is integral to the processes of teaching and learning. The emotional labor of headteachers and teachers impacts and has relevance to their roles as educational landscapes continue to shift.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)223-240
    JournalJournal of Professional Capital & Community
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • professional capital
    • leadership
    • headteacher
    • emotional intelligence
    • emotions
    • MSCEIT


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