Baxter Magolda’s Model of of Epistemological Reflection

Brief Overview
About the Author
Printable Summary (PDF)

Previous cohorts of FSU students have developed these printable summaries and used them to prepare for test and papers.  We hope they’ll be of help to you too.

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory:  

  • Longitudinal study produced a stage model of an individual’s knowledge of life, limits, and conviction of knowledge
  • Identified six assumptions of the model:
    • Ways of knowing are socialized
    • Ways of knowing can be questioned without manipulation
    • Patterns of reasoning are flexible
    • Stories are situational
    • Ways of knowing are experience based and not generalized by storyteller


  • Four stages
  • Stage 1: Absolute Knowing
    • Knowledge is unchanging. Authorities, such as professors, are seen to have absolute knowledge
    • Patterns of receiving knowledge and mastering knowledge can be found in this stage
  • Stage 2: Transitional Knowing
    • Coming to terms with the uncertainty of reality and authorities are not all knowing.
    • Patterns of interpersonal knowing and impersonal knowingare present in this stage
  • Stage 3: Independent Knowing
    • An individual assumes all knowledge is uncertain and embraces opportunity to exploration of knowledge
    • Patters of interindividual and individual are present in this stage
  • Stage 4: Contextual Knowing
    • An individual constructs knowledge, but the knowledge is backed up by evidence
Application of Theory to Practice

This section is designed to provide student affairs professionals, staff, and faculty members with tips and tools to apply theory to practice.

Annotations of Associated Literature

Annotations listed below are associated with the author’s original work to provided a more in-depth look at the theory.

Original Citation

Baxter Magolda, M.B. (1992). Knowing and reasoning in college: Gender- related patterns in students’ intellectual development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Additional Resources

This page was written and created by Andrew Mason. The webpage is maintained by Amanda Peerce and Jesse Ford.  For information on the page, please contact Amanda Peerce at or Jesse Ford at