Learning to promote physical activity: Evaluating changes in students' motivational interviewing skill and self-efficacy


Motivational interviewing (MI) and behavior change techniques are beneficial when promoting physical activity (PA) (Samdal et al., 2017). However, less is known about the effectiveness of training individuals to use these techniques in a PA setting. The purpose was to evaluate changes in students' self-efficacy to promote PA, MI skills and cultural competence over a semester. Students (N=78) from three semesters of an applied exercise psychology course received training on motivational interviewing and behavior change strategies. To apply their skills, students served as PA coaches at local parks, promoting PA among park users. Students completed surveys at the beginning and end of the semester that included a 10 item self-efficacy questionnaire, the Cultural Competence Assessment (Doorenbos et al., 2005), and an adapted Helpful Responses Questionnaire (HRQ; Miller et al., 1991) to assess MI skills. Dependent t-tests were computed to compare pre and post test scores. In terms of MI skills, students reported fewer average roadblocks to communication at post (M=0.9, SD=0.5) when compared with pre (M=1.3, SD=0.3; t(64)=6.08, p<.001) as well as an improved total score at post (M=2.9, SD=2.0) when compared to pre (M=1.2, SD=0.8; t(64)=-7.17, p<.001). There was no difference in cultural competence (t(63)=0.37; p=.71) and students' self-efficacy showed a trend towards improvement from pre (M=77.3, SD=12.8) to post (M=80.2, SD=13.3; t(63)=-1.88, p=.06). While some positive changes were seen in terms of confidence and MI skills, further research is needed to evaluate what types of training and experiences are necessary to develop such skills.