Todd E. Sage

Date of Award

January 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Myrna Olson


This research explored the use of a cognition primer to increase the perception of applicability of Motivational Interviewing for child welfare workers. Andragogy informed the need for cognition priming as a way to increase participants’ receptiveness to training by making it more applicable to their direct practice. The theory of implementation science was used to inform how organizational supports impede or enhance the likelihood of child welfare workers using Motivational Interviewing in their practice.

A cross-sectional quasi-experimental mixed modal nonequivalent group design was used with a convenience sample of 41 front line child welfare workers from one Midwest urban county social services agency. A modified version of the Application Potential of Professional Learning Inventory (APPLI 31) (Curry, 2011) was used to measure applicability of training in a control group that received Motivational Interviewing training-as-usual compared to the intervention group that received the training along with a cognition primer.

This study explored participant’s perception of the applicability of Motivational Interviewing, willingness to use Motivational Interviewing, and the personal and organizational factors that contribute to the adoption of Motivational Interviewing. Pre and post-intervention surveys were administered, and results were analyzed utilizing independent samples t-tests, multiple linear regression, and thematic analysis of the qualitative responses.

The results of this study demonstrated that organizational supports and participants’ prior experiences with training increased the likelihood of adopting Motivational Interviewing. No differences were found between the control group that received training-as-usual and the intervention group that received the training with cognition priming. Quantitative and qualitative analysis revealed that child welfare workers see Motivational Interviewing applicability for their practice, but they do not feel equipped due to time constraints and a lack of system support to use this approach. Analysis from this research adds to the literature that organizational and supervisor supports are a key factor in the adoption of practice behaviors in child welfare agencies. Additionally, this research found that worker’s views related their perceived lack of time to use and implement Motivational Interviewing must be addressed as part of priming to overcome child welfare workers’ reluctance to implement Motivational Interviewing in their practice.