Saturday, October 9, 2010

King & Kitchener's Reflective Judgment Model - Synopsis Written by Richel Raich

Patricia M. King and Karen Strohm Kitchener spent 15 years developing the Reflective Judgment Model, a model that better explains how students develop arguments and judgments. King and Kitchener began by building on the intellectual development theories of Perry, Piaget and others.

The Reflective Judgment Model is comprised of 7 stages which fit within 3 clusters: pre-reflective, quasi-reflective and reflective. The stages are linear in nature but it is possible to be in more than one stage at a time (see figure 1). In the first cluster, pre-reflective thinking, students believe that all questions must have a right, definitive answer. They also do not use evidence to support their answers. Quasi-reflective thinkers identify that the answers to some questions will be uncertain but are challenged in validating their conclusions about knowledge. Reflective thinking, stages 6 and 7, demonstrates development in critical thinking as one comes to know.  Characteristics of this cluster include understanding context, identifying pertinent data, and being active in the construction of knowledge, including reevaluation. 

King and Kitchener developed the Reflective Judgment Interview or RJI to evaluate students’ stages on the Reflective Judgment Model. Trained interviewers asked students 4 ill-structured problems without clear and certain resolutions. Many different studies using the RJI, which combined interviewed over 1,000 students, revealed example answers for students in different stages of the Reflective Judgment Model.

Use in Higher Education

The Reflective Judgment Model is incredibly useful in the field of higher education, in and out of the classroom. Professors can use the model, and King and Kitchener’s suggestions, to better understand students’ learning processes and modify curriculum to facilitate students’ moving onto higher stages of reflective judgment. Student affairs professionals can also use the Reflective Judgment Model to create programming to increase students’ reflective thinking. 

Annotated Bibliography

Ilacqua, J. A., & Prescott, M. E. (2003, Winter). Knowing economic theory: Applying the
reflective judgment model in introductory economics. Education, 124(2), 368-375, 268-

In attempt to increase students’ productivity and capacities for knowledge, two professors from Bryant College in Rhode Island created economics assignments with King and Kitchener’s Reflective Judgment model in mind. They tested these assignments on two different introductory economics courses: a day course of all traditional, first year students and a night course of less traditional, older students. The professors prefaced these assignments by explaining the Reflective Judgment model to students and their expectations of increased reflection by the students. Results from the students’ second assignments did demonstrate an increased ability to use reflective judgment, especially for students in the night class. The professors’ use of the Reflective Judgment Model in the assignments was creative and their choice to inform students of the model prior to completing the assignments can be credited for the study’s successful results. The article was a great example of using theory in the classroom.


Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2010). Later cognitive
structural theories. In Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice
(2nd ed., pp. 130-135). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and
promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


  1. For my annotated bibliography I, in part, researched Kolb's Theory of Experiential Learning. I found it extremely interesting that in one of the articles I read it discussed how students are not prepared to answer ill-structed problems when they enter higher education. The article discussed how experiential learning such as service learning, internships, etc. can aid students in developing this skill. That because students have to develop answers for themselves in these settings outside of the classroom they are much better prepared to face dilemas that may not have a black and white solution.

  2. I recently attended an information session on some recent research that English professors are conducting at Salt Lake Community College. They indicated that students had a difficult time in English 1010 because the majority of the class was spent conducting peer reviews on different writing assignments. Many students indicated levels of distress by not having assignments with clear expectations that have right and wrong answers.

    1. These students are not in hight school any more. There should not be clear right and wrong answers in college. However, in one's writing one should touch on all elements of the propose scenario or question. College is about taking information and using while supporting your point of view with reliable social or researchable facts. It is about not regurgitating unless you are completing a fill in the blank , multiple choice, or matching test.

  3. This was one of the theories I applied to Mrs. Walker's character in "Moo." Mrs. Walker, herself, is a at the reflective thinking stage, but many of the students she encounters are pre-reflective thinkers. Recognizing that many students are "black and white" thinkers, she challenges them to think in shades of gray by not providing them with definitive answers, but rather encourages them to create their own knowledge from multiple external sources. The pre-reflective aspect of this theory has reminded me that some students are very susceptible to single-source information in developing their ideas, and we need to be cognizant of our views and biases, and their potential impact on students.

  4. I agree, employers are looking for problem -solvers. The goal should be to get students to reflective thinkers.