Scholarly Critique: EI in Learning Groups

I am currently working my way through my third semester of the Information and Learning Technologies master’s program at University of Colorado, Denver.  This post is the twelfth within a series of 12 scholarly critiques that I’ve been assigned to write for a course titled Research in ILT.

My academic partner Jason and I have developed an action research project that studies how emotional intelligence relates to learning and more specifically, how it promotes positive learning experiences.  For this critique, I decided to read and review a study from April of 2015 that I found through a search on the Auraria Library using the terms emotional intelligence and group learning.  The study is titled The Magic of Collective Emotional Intelligence in Learning Groups: No Guys Needed for the Spell!  It was conducted and written by Petru L. Curşeu, Helen Pluut, and Nicoleta Meslec, all from the Department of Organization Studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, as well as Smaranda Boros from the Vlerick Business School in Brussels, Belgium.  The study relates to our own in that it thoroughly covers how emotional intelligence relates to and affects group learning, essentially exploring a theme that we discovered in our findings from our data collection and analysis.

SC12 Search

Curşeu et al. (2015) begin their paper by explaining the concept of groups as “social systems with cognitive and emotional emergent properties” (p. 217).  Throughout recent years, literature on group emotions has shown the importance of the emergence of collective emotions (affective similarity) and collective emotional competencies (i.e., collective emotional intelligence or CEI).  Collective emotional intelligence is defined as the ability of a group to develop a set of norms that promote awareness and regulation of member and group emotions (Druskat & Wolff, 2001).

The aim of this study was to “test a comprehensive socio-emotional model of groups that integrates both collective emotional competencies and affective similarity as they relate to quality of interpersonal relations and effectiveness in groups and as such uncovers the mechanisms through which the percentage of women in groups contributes to group effectiveness” (Curşeu et al., 2015, p. 218).  The researchers set out to test three hypotheses (with two additional sub hypotheses):

  1. Hypothesis 1: The proportion of women in the group has a positive effect on the emergence of collective emotional intelligence.
  2. Hypothesis 2a: Cohesion mediates the influence of collective emotional intelligence on group effectiveness.
    Hypothesis 2b: Relationship conflict mediates the influence of collective emotional intelligence on group effectiveness.
  3. Hypothesis 3a: Group cohesion is positively associated with affective similarity, which in turn positively impacts on group effectiveness.
    Hypothesis 3b: Relationship conflict is negatively associated with affective similarity, which in turn positively impacts on group effectiveness.

The researchers’ sample consisted of 528 students enrolled in various courses at a Dutch university.  Out of the 528 students, 45.9% of them were women and the average age of the group was 21.1 years old.  The courses required that all of the students work in small groups throughout the entire semester resulting in approximately 100 groups, with three to seven students per group.

Utilizing social networks, the researchers asked the students to fill out questionnaires evaluating specific variables included in the study.  The two questionnaires were four weeks apart.  The first measured collective emotional intelligence, group mood, group cohesion, and relationship conflict.  The second assessed the same set of variables but also included group effectiveness.  Within both questionnaires, measurement on CEI, affective similarity, group cohesion, relationship conflict, and group effectiveness was achieved using various scales, such as the 5-point Likert scale.

The findings of the study showed that the percentage of women in a group increases the collective emotional intelligence and subsequently improves teamwork quality, ultimately enhancing group effectiveness.  This essentially proves that emotional intelligence is extremely beneficial for group effectiveness in collaborative learning groups (p. 229).  The study did have the limitation that all of the respondents were young students, but future research should present similar findings in groups working in other organizational settings.  The impacts of this study are similar to ours in that research proves a need for the fostering of emotional intelligence in group learning.  One way to achieve this would be to create and implement emotional intelligence assessments and activities prior to all group learning sessions – the foundation of our action research project.e:

“Emotions are at the core of social interactions in groups and therefore influence the way members work together” (p. 219).

Header image from here.


Curşeu, P. L., Pluut, H., Boroş, S., & Meslec, N. (2014). The magic of collective emotional intelligence in learning groups: No guys needed for the spell! British Journal of Psychology, 1–18.

***For all sources cited in this critique, please view the article here.