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Motivational interviewing in schools

Motivational interview (MI) has been designed as a method that will help medical professionals to inspire and sustain patients habit changes, for example: stop eating sugar, take your medication on time. The need for this method was very obvious: patients easily lose motivation to sustain change and sometimes they are not sure why they should change in the first place.   Motivational interviewing has given medical professionals clear instructions on how to guide their patients through the change process.


As the evidence base has grown rich and demonstrated MI efficacy, professionals start using it in a different context. Many professionals start using it in educational settings aiming to increase students internally driven motivation to achieve educational goals (for example better grades, dropout prevention, better learning habits). Many of those experiences are collected and presented in book Motivational interviewing in schools*.


According to this book, MI may be described as:


  • A conversation that helps someone work out why and how he or she might change.
  • The opposite of direct persuasion: instead of trying to instill motivation from the outside, you encourage students to find it in themselves.
  • A collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change (Miller & Rollnick, 2013).
  • A person-centered counseling style for addressing the common problem of ambivalence about change (Miller & Rollnick, 2013).
  • A helping conversation in which you come alongside the student in the role of a guide, focus on the language he or she uses when talking about change and then employ skills like reflective listening to reinforce this, thereby promoting change.


As you may notice, MI is corresponding with principals of adult education good practices: cooperate with the student, focus on strengths and aspiration, respect their experience and walk alongside them.  When we want to inspire our students to work harder and learn more MI process is following, we engage in conversation=establish good working relationship, provide focus or direction for conversation, evoke the change (encourage student to say how and why they might change) and plan the process with clearly defined how we, as the teacher, may support the student.


If this is interesting for you, please follow our next blog posts where will be more described each of these MI processes.



*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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