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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Motivational interviewing: Step two Evoking

by Ruzica Madzarevic
Language: EN

This is one of the texts in the series Motivational interviewing. We described the motivational interview (MI) and the main process of the MI conversation as well as more about step one: engaging. If you want to learn more about it start from book Motivational interviewing in schools* which is also the main resource for these blog posts.


When we are engaged in conversation, our next task is to evoke and plan for the change. In the following text, we will describe what is important to bear in mind in this phase of the conversation.


As we mentioned, MI is focused on noticing change talk and helping it to grow and solidify*.


Evoking as a phase is centered on defining WHY and HOW we want to change some behavior in the learning context (for example, to attend to classes, do homework).


When we establish contact and show the student that we are there to hear without judgments their story, we listen to recognize change talk and sustain talk. Change talk is all the sentence and words that demonstrate readiness and willingness to change, for example, I know that doing homework is useful. Know that this will help me to get a better job. Sustain talk is all the buts, ifs and ambivalence toward change, for example, I think teachers don’t get me. It is too hard. I am not a student material.


We as the teachers want in this phase to capture the change talk, to refer to positive motivation and to summarize talk around motivation and strengths.   For example, if the student is angry about the teacher, we acknowledge that and steer the conversation back to change- What do you want for yourself.


The question in this phase is: What are you going to do about this?

What are you going to do about this is an introduction to the next phase- planning. When we are clear on why I would like to do something and remind the students to the resources and strengths they have next we want to establish what and how we will do.


These are the guidelines for evoking change talk:


  • Stay engaged in conversation. Avoid arguing with the student.
  • Expect and accept that they are going to be ambivalent toward change.
  • Notice change talk.
  • Evoke change talks with open-ended questions.
  • Reflect the change talk by affirming student’s positive motivation and strengths.
  • Be open to different outcomes. Allow the students' responses to guide the conversation.
  • It is the back and forwards process, not the clearly defined phase.
  • Ask the key question about action: What are you going to do about this?

For more details about MI follow our next texts.  


*Rollnick, S., Kaplan, S. G., & Rutschman, R. (2016). Applications of motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing in schools: Conversations to improve behavior and learning. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.

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