A Qualitative Evaluation of an Online Intervention Designed for Exercise Instructors to Adopt a More Motivationally-Adaptive Communication Style

  • Thomas Holland

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


Drawing from Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2002), the present study designed and evaluated need supportive components of an online intervention to train exercise instructors to adopt a more motivationally-adaptive communication style when interacting with their exercisers. The intervention utilised various behaviour change techniques (Michie et al., 2011), amongst different learning strategies (a webinar series, an online handbook and a social media platform). The intervention was reported in detail in a separate document (Appendix 1), in line with the current guidelines surrounding adequate implementation and fidelity procedures (Borelli et al., 2005; Hoffmann et al., 2014). The study adopted a pragmatic design, evaluating the intervention using qualitative methods. This was achieved by taking guidance from the RE-AIM framework and SDT to understand if the intervention was worthwhile and what modifications should be made to the intervention to be scalable for a future pilot trial (Glasgow & Estabrooks, 2018; Holtrop et al., 2018). Eight exercise instructors participated in semi-structured interviews surrounding the interventions essential need-supportive components. Interviews were tailored to each participants experience using self-reflection diary data collected at various points throughout the intervention. Deductive thematic content analysis was used at the semantic level to code and cluster the data into different themes, based on what emerged from the interviews. Barriers and facilitators to successful intervention engagement and strategy implementation were discussed in relation to the intervention components that facilitated or thwarted instructors’ perceptions of interpersonal involvement, structure and autonomy support. Findings are discussed in relation to their theoretical, practical and research implications, including the limitations and proposed adaptations to the present intervention, contributions towards the future design of a pilot trial and contributions to improve the design and training content of other SDT-based training programmes across the exercise and healthcare domains, in general. Limitations of the present research are discussed in terms of the design and implementation of the intervention; the data collection and analysis procedure; the evaluation of the intervention.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorSimon Payne (Supervisor)


  • motivation
  • communication
  • wellbeing
  • online intervention
  • exercise
  • exercise instructors
  • self-determination
  • basic psychological needs
  • pragmatic evaluation
  • RE-AIM
  • pilot
  • exploratory

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