Abstract: Exploring the Feasibility and Acceptability of a Group Motivational Interviewing Intervention for Ninth Grade Students at High Risk for High School Dropout (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Exploring the Feasibility and Acceptability of a Group Motivational Interviewing Intervention for Ninth Grade Students at High Risk for High School Dropout

Friday, January 17, 2020
Capitol, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Aidyn Iachini, PhD, Associate Professor, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Martha Fenske, MSW Student, University of South Carolina, SC
Background and Purpose: There is growing evidence supporting the use of motivational interviewing (MI) with students in schools. Moreover, schools are increasingly interested in feasible interventions to implement in a classroom environment. Group MI (GMI), groups that use MI to foster interaction between group members to support change, is a potential intervention mechanism that meets this need (Wagner & Ingersoll, 2012). No study has examined the feasibility and acceptability of a GMI intervention for use in the classroom setting to support students at high-risk for school dropout. This study addressed this gap through development and initial pilot testing of a GMI intervention designed for ninth grade students who are at high-risk for dropout. Research questions included: 1) Was the GMI intervention feasible to implement? 2) What were students and teachers/school staff perspectives about the program? 3) Do the students who participate improve in their academic motivation, school connectedness, social skills, and career and college readiness?

Methods: This study utilized a mixed method study design. Thirty-five ninth graders (65.7% male; 34.3% female) enrolled in four sections of a specialized reading seminar class in one high school participated in the study. Fifty-seven percent received free or reduced price lunch. In terms of race/ethnicity, 48.6% of students self-identified as African American/Black, 28.6% Mixed Race, 5.7% White, and 2.9% Asian. Students completed a pre/post survey that assessed school connectedness and academic motivation (1=Strongly Disagree to 5=Strongly Agree), social skills (1=Not at All to 5=Very Much), and career and college readiness (1=Strongly Disagree to 5=Strongly Agree). The post-survey also assessed program satisfaction (1=Extremely Satisfied to 6=Extremely Dissatisfied) and helpfulness (Yes/N0), and contained open-ended questions asking about program experiences. Two interventionists completed structured notes during implementation, and teachers/school staff provided oral and written feedback. Quantitative data were descriptively analyzed and paired sample t-tests were conducted in SPSS. Qualitative data were analyzed in MaxQDA using provisional codes and second-cycle axial coding to differentiate themes.


The qualitative data indicate the GMI intervention was feasible to implement; however, several factors influenced program delivery including 1) differing student engagement 2) classroom group size, and 3) amount of content in each lesson. A majority of students (84.8%) reported the program to be helpful and reported being very/extremely satisfied (68.6%). Students reported learning skills such as goal-setting, communicating with others, and time management. Teachers/school staff reported that the program contained helpful content, but that the lessons need to be expanded so that more time can be spent on each lesson and that the content can be extended into their classroom once the program ends. Despite this, quantitative data indicated that students’ perceptions across all four outcomes of interest declined slightly, but not significantly, from pre- to post-program.

Conclusions and Implications: Despite study limitations, findings indicate that this intervention is feasible and acceptable to implement; however, further program refinement is needed given the pre/post results. Implications of this study for school social work research, practice, and policy related to the use of GMI to prevent high school dropout will be shared.