Saturday, October 23, 2010

Baxter Magolda’s Theory of Self Authorship Written by Anita Kiteau

Overview of Theory
Marcia Baxter Magolda began her study of this theory when she identified an important gap of gender in the existing work of Perry and Belenky. She saw the need to address gender in the study and to involve both men and women together. Magolda originally began her study in 1992 on the epistemological development of 101 Miami University students. She conducted an exclusive study on epistemological development and her work evolved over the last twenty years with an in-depth study of thirty nine students out of the 101 original participants.

Baxter Magolda identified three dimensions which answer the three simple questions that the individual questions during his or her journey toward self-authorship. These questions are: how do I know, who am I, and how do I want to construct relationships with others. The three dimensions of self-authorship are: a) epistemological which assists the individual to answer the “how do I know” part, b) intrapersonal where the individual finds answer to the question of “who am I” and lastly c) interpersonal, the individual comes to a strong sense of self and is able to master the “how do I want to construct relationships with others.” These dimensions are intertwined according to the experiences of the individual.

The Intersection of all circles is "Inner Voice"

There are four phases of self-authorship discovered by Baxter Magolda.  These are following formulas, crossroads, becoming the author of one’s life, and internal foundation. These phases are not linear however fundamentally, when the individual becomes the author of self, he or she is moving away from following external formulas to developing their inner voices and makes meaning of life based on their internal foundation. She concluded that participants were not identified as reaching self-authorship, however they left college with an initial awareness of self-authorship and continue to make meaning in their lives as they develop their inner voices. Baxter Magolda later introduced the Learning Partnership Model (LPM) with Patricia King to foster self-authorship development. The LPM creates environments between individuals and authorities that effectively promote self-authorship.
Use in Higher Education
Baxter Magolda argued that self authorship needs to be the basis for advance learning outcomes in college in order to effectively prepare students for this century. Self-authorship is being applied in college through interaction among students and educators and includes giving constructive instruction that allow for self reflection, clear interpretations of self beliefs, and active involvement in meaningful activities. Student Affairs develop self-authorship within resident halls, academic advising, career advising and professional student affairs staff. Self-authorship is critically reflected on the diverse population of students and their different experiences.
Annotated Bibliography Entry
Walczak, K.K. (2008). Utilizing self-authorship to understand the college admission process. Journal of College Admission, (198), 31-35

The author draws from the student development theories of self-authorship and orders of consciousness to understand first year, traditional-aged college students. This includes how they understand entry into college through the admission process before they actually develop self-authorship in college. The author examines the development of students as they approach the admission process in the following stages: following external formulas/durable categories, the crossroads/cross-categorical thinking and becoming author of own life/self-authorship. Students do not have a viewpoint of self at first and rely upon others such as authorities (parents and admissions personnel) to tell them exactly what to do. Secondly, students begin to constructively make sense of differences and build their own viewpoints but still do not understand how others’ views influence theirs. Lastly, students are able to separate their viewpoints from others and act upon their own ideas and beliefs. The study concludes with implications that admission counselors and authorities should facilitate the developmental transition of where a student is and where college personnel expect them to be.

Magolda, M.B. (2004).  Making their own way.  Sterling, VA:  Stylus.

Magolda, M.B. (2010). The interweaving of epistemological, intrapersonal, and interpersonal development in the evolution of self-authorship. In M.B. Magolda, E.F. Creamer and P.S. Meszaros (Eds.), Development and Assessment of Self-Authorship (pp. 25-43). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F., Patton, L.D., & Renn, K.A. (2010). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Walczak, K.K. (2008). Utilizing self-authorship to understand the college admission process. Journal of College Admission, (198), 31-35.


  1. The applications to Higher Education are interesting when combined with our discussion in class last night. I try to give "constructive instruction" and many times I succeed. However, allowing time for refection in the process is difficult and something I need to work on. As mentioned last night, it is easier to give a "quick answer" then to slow things down and take the time to assess where the students are developmentally and create a strategy to help foster their own development by our interactions. This approach is more intentional and patient then the quick and easy approach.

  2. It was useful that Anita introduced the theory by asking "why did you decide to attend college"? When I honestly considered this question, I realized that my initial answer was within the "following external formulas" stage. Basically, I went to college because everyone in my family did and it was what all my peers were doing, so I just went with the flow. Other reasons I attended were to meet new people, live in the dorms, and have more freedom (the typical freshman pursuits). This perception changed towards the last couple years of college, when I understood that I enjoyed and benefited from college because I was intellectually challenged, barraged with conflicting viewpoints, and in an intensely busy exploratory mode. Instead of focusing on having fun or fulfilling external expectations, I began to really like reading, applying statistics, and doing community service. To my surprise, I valued being pushed and pruned by faculty and mentors. It really was a trip towards self authorship.

  3. Tom and Amester have offered insight into self-authorship using a key tool - reflection. Whether reflecting on our experiences that were many years ago or yesterday, it contributes to our understanding of self. It is important to consider how practitioners can engage students in this activity. As Tom mentioned from the class discussion, it is quicker to give the answer but that does not facilitate understanding and critical thinking about actions and behaviors.

    Keep posting!

  4. I was once asked when I first entered the college setting, "How do you want to leave your college you want to leave it unfinished by not meeting others who share the same interests as you or finish with a bang by meeting people who can help you find out who you really are?" I didn't know what my adviser was talking about at the time. Throughout my college career I finally started making friends and leaving them with an impression on who I was and finding out who I was at the same time. When I first moved to Orem, I thought I was just here to go to school and not really to do anything else. My adviser asked me one day if I was getting out and making friends. I told her no because I am too busy to make friends and that is when she posed the question for me. Now I think of her question and I wonder sometimes if students I help are also writing their books so they can reflect later on if they found out who they were and if they are making lasting relationships with those they connect with. Freshman I noticed are just trying to find out if college is right for them.

  5. I think this theory is interesting, and I feel like we still have a lot to learn about ourselves, and how to really be "self authors" of our lives. It was interesting, and also important, that this theory includes influences of the environment and other people, along with understanding the self. This internal self reflection is not always easy, because we all want to think of ourselves in the best light possible. But to grow, one really has to take the good and the bad, and allow constructive criticism from themselves and others in order to develop and refine the sense of self.

  6. I find it interesting that this theory - like many theories we've studied - aren't meant to be linear. However, this theory, for me, seems the most linear "non-linear" theory we've discussed. As it pertains to self-authorship - it seems one would have to reach a particular point of "knowing" before being able to comprehend the next. It's having the milk before the meat sort of idea. Example, "how do I know, who am I, and how do I want to construct relationships with others" for me seems like a step 1, step 2, and step 3 as each prior step needs to be accomplished in order for students to have the epistemological capacity to press forward. Many of our recent theory studies have suggested that some stages cannot be reached until individuals reach a certain age (generally middle age) which indicates again to me there are more "linear" theories than others.

  7. This is a very unique theory because it relates almost to everyone. A general assumption I would make is that everyone seems to go after what they do best and to build their own self-mastery. It is still hard just like Krista said. Baxter Magolda argues that her study participants didn’t developed self authorship during college or up until they graduated but only an initial awareness of self. However, I believe that individuals can show being self-authored based on how they make strong internal decisions on various life situations whether they are yet to be in college, currently attending college and/or in post college life. A student who chose a major before college, studied it through college and felt absolutely great about it with satisfying grades, critical thinking and applicable experiences does not need to wait and figure out after college if he or she chose the right major and/or self-mastered the major. Indeed, the student may continue to develop more self-authorship as life progresses and yes, the student is already experiencing a beautiful self-authorship journey beginning from before entering college when she or he decided on which major to take.

  8. I am very hard on myself and I don't know where that come from! I have weakenesses I have to face. I have to make decision what to do with them and make the best of out it. Some days are horrible and some days are good. Students are the same way. I have changed my major few times. I write my journal to help me with my reflection but sometimes I need others to tell me. Since I'm not in my 20's anymore, I do look back and think about bad and good choices I've made. When we help students to have reflection, we can ask them open ended questions like what did you do last weekend? How did it make you feel? Does this help you?

  9. When I think of self authorship, I think of it as a process of self reflection, identification of self and assimilation of that consciousness into awareness. If one is aware of their perspectives and determine why they have them they are aware of the variables and can evaluate them for congruency with their beliefs, morals and values.

    It requires an understanding of how knowledge is formed and the need for the perception of evidence and the evaluation of that perception.

    Self authorship also involves the process of claiming authority, using reflection to realize people have the ability to be authorities so long as they evaluate the information and naturalizing or exercising this authority.

    It's also interconnected with identify exploration. It can be used to explore and identify your own sense of self and it can be used to more actively mould your sense of self based on logical evaluation of information and ones interest in having integrity to ones values and beliefs.

    In some way it reminds me of Chickerings final stages. Perhaps self authorship is Chickerings final goal because it involves having a sense of identity, being able to interact with others, and integrity to one's sense of self. The final result, I would say is a solid sense of authority, right to make informed decisions and form conclusions, and act upon them.

  10. I really like this theory because it reminds me somewhat of Vygotsky's theories of development in that learning is social and relational - I think it would be an interesting research topic to look at how Vygotsky's scaffolding principle could be used to help individuals develop their self-authorship in college.

  11. Fascinating topic and discussion!

    First, are the any men involved? Secondly, the economic issues of reality get in the way of "self-authoring". Parents work very hard to pay for college for their children so that their children will get an education and eventually join the work force. Back when I went to college, I came to get an education.

    As a black man, no one else in my family had attended a 4 year institution, so I was first. The purpose to to break out of a historical "glass ceiling", which I believe I have done. The only "self-authoring" going on in my mind then, and definitely in my mind now as a solidly middle-aged parent and part of society is to be responsible, respectful, honest, and realistic.

    In addition, this idea of "self-authoring" may have more to do with self-awareness than redefining ones self. In addition, in order to contribute and give to others in our post-modern world, we all have to choose a stake in the road, a rubric and guidepost in order to direct us ethically, morally, socially, and professional. Personally, my faith has provided such a framework for me, but consciously or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we choose something, even if that choice changes with stages of life.

    Ultimately, experience, culture, relationships, and many other complex influences shape our development as human being and how we interact with the larger society outside of the college classroom.

  12. However, even in your present job, whatever it is, if you could just be more enthusiastic, I guarantee the world would perceive a different person and your results would improve, no matter what you do. Wealth Tips

  13. This is highly interesting, however, self authoring can make a lot of difference in individual life and can take care of a lot of negative self constructs, and that can make a whole lot difference in life