Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Crooks, Claire


Teachers' social-emotional competencies (SECs) are crucial elements to effectively facilitate the implementation of social-emotional learning (SEL) programs, the development of students' SECs, and their own capacity to manage job stress. However, there is little research on teachers' SECs, the factors that contribute to their development, and their relationship with teachers’ psychological well-being. The two studies in this dissertation attempt to address research gaps in the literature on teachers’ and pre-service teachers’ SECs.

The first study aimed to develop a structured conceptualization of teachers' SECs and identify the competencies that pre-service teachers most value in the classroom. The second study examined possible predisposing factors (i.e., resilience, self-efficacy, empathy) that could be associated with the development of pre-service teachers' SECs. The second study also determined the effect of pre-service teachers' SECs on their levels of well-being over and above predisposing factors. In the first study, first-year pre-service teachers from the Social Emotional Learning course participated in a group concept mapping activity in the fall semester of 2018; 54 pre-service teachers completed the brainstorming activity in the first phase, but only ten volunteered for the second phase to sort, label, and rate statements. Results from the concept mapping activity indicated that pre-service teachers identified attributes such as teachers' communication, leadership, social traits, cognitive, and emotional skills, as well as their ability to build a learning community, create a learning community, and enhance their professional practice as descriptors of socially and emotionally competent teachers. Based on participant ratings, teachers' ability to model the behaviour they want their students to exhibit and their ability to establish positive communication with their students are viewed as the most valuable skills to facilitate the social-emotional learning curricula in the classroom. In the second study, 97 first-year pre-service teachers completed online surveys in the fall semester of 2017. Results from the online surveys revealed that pre-service teachers' resilience was a significant predictor of SEC levels and psychological well-being. In a similar manner to resilience, pre-service teachers' SECs were weak predictors of psychological well-being. However, after controlling for resilience, pre-service teachers’ SECs were no longer predictors of psychological well-being.

Summary for Lay Audience

Teachers' social-emotional competencies, including the ability to identify and regulate emotions, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions are critical for students' social-emotional development. However, there is little research about teachers' social-emotional competencies and even less research focused on pre-service teachers' social-emotional competencies. For example, there is no consensus on the social-emotional attributes that teachers are expected to demonstrate in the classroom or the factors associated with the development of pre-service teachers' social-emotional competencies. Further, there is little information regarding how the levels of pre-service teachers' social-emotional competencies influence their levels of satisfaction with life in general.

Addressing research gaps in the literature in this area could provide a better understanding of the development of pre-service teachers' and in-service teachers' social-emotional competencies. This dissertation aims to identify the attributes that socially and emotionally competent teachers are expected to model in the classroom. Furthermore, the results of this dissertation may also assist in determining the social-emotional factors that could be targeted during teacher education to facilitate the development of pre-service teachers' social-emotional competencies and increase their levels of satisfaction. An additional objective is to assess the effect of pre-service teachers' social-emotional competencies on their levels of satisfaction with life in general.

The study population consisted of first-year teacher candidates from a university in southwestern Ontario. Participants completed online surveys and a concept mapping activity. In the concept mapping activity, participants made a list of the social-emotional attributes that expect to see in teachers. Then, they categorized and rated the attributes in terms of its importance. The researcher used statistical analysis to identify social-emotional attributes and make predictions.