The role of emotions in the educational context is one of the lines of research that has generated most interest in recent years. This study explores the level of emotional intelligence (EI) and motivation towards studying of primary school (PS) students, as well as the relationship between both variables. For this, a quasi-experimental design has been used with an accidental sample of 541 students from public centers in the province of Pontevedra (Spain). The instruments used were a School Motivation Scale and an EI questionnaire for primary school students, based on the five areas of Goleman EI. The results maintain a mid to high level of EI in all of the factors (self-conscience, self-control, emotional use, empathy and social skills) and a good level of academic motivation. Therefore, they show a positive and significant correlation of both variables. Girls have a higher emotional intelligence index and there is no difference in academic motivation in terms of gender. Based on these results, it is suggested to implement programs that consolidate emotional competences given their importance in the psychoevolutionary development of students and their relationship with academic motivation.
Education in Spain, and therefore the primary education (PE) stage, has been exposed to numerous legislative and structural reforms in recent decades. Currently, this stage is focused on the acquisition of competency development, which includes the learning of personal, intellectual, social, and emotional skills. The ultimate goal is that students can learn and develop these skills and abilities that allow them to face their future and adapt to the changing situations of the knowledge society (Codero & Manchón, 2014; Merchán et al., 2014; Asensio et al., 2015). In this sense, more and more voices are emerging that question the exclusivity of rational intelligence as the most influential factor in achieving academic and personal success, understanding that there are other variables that should also be taken into account, such as emotional intelligence (EI) and motivation (Ferrándiz et al., 2012; Filella et al., 2014; Bisquerra et al., 2015; Pulido & Herrera, 2017; Rebollo & de la Peña, 2017; Puertas et al., 2020).
The key lies in the harmony between thoughts and emotions, and education is the main instrument to achieve this harmony, to achieve an integral development of people, not only at a cognitive level, but also in the social and emotional aspect. New times demand a change in academic slogans, bringing emotional education closer to formal education (Aguadez & Pantoja, 2015; Valdés & Gutiérrez, 2018; Solé, 2020). Hence, one of the most preeminent purposes of education should be to train emotionally intelligent students, understanding emotional intelligence as “the ability to access and generate feelings that facilitate thoughts” (Mayer & Salovey, 1997, 10).
Discussion and conclusions
According to the results obtained, we can consider that PE students have a good motivational level and a medium-high level of EI.
As for the EI components, they present higher mean in those referring to social skills, emotional achievement, empathy and self-awareness, and slightly lower in the self-control factor.
In view of the results obtained, we can also affirm that there is a high degree of correlation between the main variables of the EI study and school motivation. Therefore, these results support our main working hypothesis and we can confirm that students with high levels of EI are more motivated to study and perform school tasks. There is not abundant scientific evidence on this relationship in primary school children. However, in some works (Ferrándiz et al., 2012; Conde & Almagro, 2013; López, 2013; Cera et al., 2015; Domínguez-Alonso et al., 2016; Usán & Salavera, 2018), carried out with samples of Secondary School or Conservatory of Music students, it can be seen that the correlation between EI and school motivation is significant, although in a more modest way than in our study.