The effectiveness of student focused school-based motivational interviewing: Evidence emerging from current practice

  • Laura Snape

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Motivational interviewing (MI) has been used extensively and often effectively in medical settings to support behaviour change in adults. There is emerging evidence that MI may also be a useful approach for working with young people in schools. This thesis investigated the effectiveness of MI in educational settings and is presented in three sections. The first paper is an evaluative systematic literature review examining the evidence for student-focused MI in educational settings. Eleven studies were included in the review, although just eight were identified as 'best evidence' and included in the synthesis. Overall there is evidence for the effectiveness of student-focused MI in the areas of behaviour, school-based motivation and academic achievement. However, a number of methodological weaknesses were identified in the existing literature, which provides clear pointers for future research. Previous research has highlighted the potential usefulness of MI when used as a therapeutic intervention with disaffected students. However, to date, there has been little published research investigating students' views on MI. The second paper aims to investigate students' views on an MI intervention. Three disaffected students took part in an individual MI intervention, which was delivered by three educational psychologists (EPs). Semi-structured interviews were used to obtain the students' views, immediately after the intervention and again at a follow-up interview three months later. The results indicated that students were enthusiastic about the intervention and most perceived that there had been a positive impact on their learning motivation and classroom behaviour. However, these results were not consistent with questionnaire responses and two of the students experienced exclusions around the time of the intervention. The implications of these ambiguous findings are discussed in relation to the use of therapeutic interventions by EPs and the possible factors that are crucial to the success of MI interventions. The third paper provides a critical appraisal of the overall research process, including implications of the work, wider context of the research and dissemination of evidence to professional practice.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCatharine Atkinson (Supervisor) & Kevin Woods (Supervisor)


  • children and young people
  • disaffection
  • student views
  • educational psychologists
  • motivational interviewing
  • children
  • young people
  • intervention
  • systematic review

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