Applying concepts from Emotional Intelligence during lockdown due to COVID-19 improves the academic performance of university students

During last Spring’s COVID-19 lockdown, researchers from the UGR ran Emotional Intelligence workshops that helped university students manage their adaptive processes and regulate their emotions more effectively

The participants experienced less academic burnout and were more committed to their academic activities as a result of these workshops.

A study carried out by researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) and published in the journal Pharmacy has demonstrated that the application of various concepts from Emotional Intelligence (EQ) taught in workshops for university students during the COVID-19 lockdown period last spring helped participants manage their adaptive processes more appropriately and regulate their emotions more effectively. The students reported feeling less academic burnout and were more committed to their academic activities than before these workshops.

The sudden outbreak and rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 demanded unprecedented measures to control the pandemic. In the case of Spain, the government declared a state of emergency and a strict national lockdown, leading the university system to have to rapidly transform its course delivery into a virtual (online) format. Taking into account the setbacks this caused—among other reasons, due to the emotional difficulties and uncertainty generated by the pandemic—a team of UGR researchers decided to draw on the concepts and tools of EQ as one of the most powerful teaching resources for achieving greater involvement among students and heightened commitment to their academic studies. Ultimately, this approach helped many of the participants overcome any deficiencies they were experiencing.

The research came about when lecturers from the UGR’s Department of Physiology, together with others from the Faculty of Pharmacy and the Educational Psychology Office, sought to improve teaching and learning under lockdown conditions. This led them to propose the study, which aimed to establish the effect of lockdown on teaching–learning processes and academic performance and the impact of applying EQ concepts among university students to improve their performance.

Javier Díaz Castro of the Department of Physiology is the principal author of this work. He explains that COVID-19 put teachers and students in a situation of uncertainty, constant challenges, and frustration: “We cannot continue teaching like we did before, as circumstances have changed. We need to reinvent ourselves to maintain quality teaching and attract the interest of our students. Since the key to learning lies in the emotions, not reason, and a positive environment is the first step toward achieving meaningful learning, it is clear that to achieve a high-quality experience for students, it is essential to take into account their emotions, needs, motivations, interests, and objectives.”

The reason–emotion binary is inseparable and synergistic, he continues. “We must motivate, excite, and inspire so that learning leaves an indelible mark on the student. We will only know, remember, and learn what interests, motivates, and inspires us. The acquisition of knowledge, curiosity, attention, or memory requires positive emotions. Emotion is the most powerful teaching tool that exists.”

Volunteer students from the Faculty of Pharmacy took part in the study. Two timeframes were established: one at the beginning of the lockdown and the other after various concepts of EQ had been taught online for two months. The Spanish versions of the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Student Survey (MBI-SS) and Utrecht Work Engagement Scale-Students (UWES-S) were used to evaluate the intervention.

In total, 63.5% of the students presented academic burnout during the lockdown, prior to the intervention. After the EQ workshops and seminars, only 31.1% presented academic burnout. Similarly, prior to the online input on EQ, 44.6% experienced exhaustion and 60.3% felt they were ineffective in their academic performance. After the input, only 29.1% of the students reported experiencing burnout and just 28.8% felt they were ineffective in their academic life. In fact, the scores obtained after studying the EQ in Physiology seminars led to improved results in all the variables studied.

The students managed their adaptive processes more appropriately and regulated their emotions better, since they felt less academic exhaustion and were more committed to their academic activities.

Full bibliographic information


Jorge Moreno Fernández, Julio J. Ochoa, Inmaculada López Aliaga, Mª José M. Alférez, Manuel Gómez Guzmán, Sagrario López Ortega & Javier Díaz Castro (2020), ‘Lockdown, emotional intelligence and academic performance in pharmacy students during the quarantine’, Pharmacy 8, 194; doi:10.3390/pharmacy8040194
Attached files
  • Some of the authors of this work. From left to right, Inmaculada López Aliaga, Jorge Moreno Fernández, Javier Díaz Castro, and Julio J. Ochoa Herrera

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