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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring the connection between emotional intelligence and first year experiences of undergraduate students at one Canadian university James, Cindy Lou


There is a general consensus that the first year of university offers significant challenges, as new students not only adjust to the academic rigor of post-secondary schooling, but also to new social and cultural milieus. Thus, emotional intelligencethe ability to identify, process and manage emotions to affect positive behaviourmust play an important role during this transitional year, but how so? This mixed methods study was designed to answer that question by thoroughly investigating the connections between emotional intelligence (EI) and the first year experiences of students at a Canadian university. To do so, the EI of first year students, as measured by the BarOn Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i), was assessed at the beginning of their studies and at the end of their first year during the 2010-2011 academic year at Thompson Rivers University. Quantitative and qualitative indicators of performance, engagement, experiences, and potential associations were examined, as were changes in EI and gender effects. The findings from this study suggest there is a complicated connection between emotional intelligence and first year experiences of students. Although students felt EI played an important role, the findings revealed no significant correlations between EI and academic achievement, and very few significant associations between EI and students’ nonacademic experiences in first year. However, there was a strong connection between first year experiences and changes in emotional intelligence, as most EI mean scores increased, many significantly, from the pre to the post assessment. Finally, the EI scores of male students differed from those of female students in some facets that appeared to influence engagement, but not academic performance.

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