Direct Effects of Church Leader–Student Motivational Interviewing on Student Achievement: An Experimental Study

Sophia Odene Cohall, Fordham University


The enforcement of discipline codes in schools, and subsequent punitive responses are often enforced at a higher rate with Black students, sometimes leading to devastating effects for the students. Church leaders can partner with parents and schools to provide support for students, in the caring, compassionate context of the church, to improve students’ academic outcomes. Religious involvement is a meaningful indicator of academic success among all students. Black students in general displayed the highest level of commitment to the church, yet as a group they report the lowest grades in school, suggesting that churches within Black communities are not fully utilizing their potential to improve academic outcomes. This study provides a test of the effect of church leaders motivational interviewing (MI) on student academic behavior, achievement, and motivation. Participants were 49 students from two large urban churches, in fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, who were randomly assigned to either an MI experimental condition (n = 26) or delayed treatment control condition (n = 23). The gain scores from pretest to posttest were used as dependent measures for academic behavior, academic achievement and motivation. In comparison to the control group, students in the experimental condition showed significant gains in class participation, decreased time spent playing video games and using the computer for fun, gains in math achievement and motivation, with medium to large effect. These findings provide support for the promise of church leader-student discussions, employing a single session of MI to improve academic outcomes of youth who attend church.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational psychology|Black studies

Recommended Citation

Cohall, Sophia Odene, "Direct Effects of Church Leader–Student Motivational Interviewing on Student Achievement: An Experimental Study" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI27959873.