Baxter Magolda’s Theory of Self-Authorship

Brief Overview


Baxter Magolda defines self-authorship as “the internal capacity to define one’s beliefs, identity, and social relations” and answers the three following questions (Evans et al.,2010, p.184). How do I know?  Who Am I?  How do I want to construct relationships with others?


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:  Four phases towards self-authorship:

  • Phase 1: Following Formulas—allowing others to define who you are, “young adults follow the plans laid out for them” while assuring themselves they created these plans themselves (p.185)
  • Phase 2: Crossroads—The plan’s a student has been following do not necessarily fit anymore, and new plans need to be established. Students are dissatisfied with self. As student development professionals, we should be extremely adept at seeing this stage and know how to guide our students to a life of purpose when they are at the “crossroads.”
  • Phase 3: Becoming the Author of One’s Life—creating the ability to choose own beliefs and stand up for them (especially when facing conflict or opposing views)
  • Phase 4: Internal Foundation—“grounded in their self-determined belief system, in their sense of who they are, and the mutuality of their relationships” (p. 186)

In order to develop a strong internal foundation, students need to trust the internal voice and build an internal foundation.

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.

Submission by Nicole DiBartolo

Toward a New Model of Self-Authorship for Grieving Undergraduates – Nate Cradit, from Michigan State University. Presented at ACPA 2015 Conference.

I selected this resource because it provides a good overview of Baxter-Magolda’s theory of Self Authorship. The presentation goes over the basics of the theory and also discusses’ the authors limitations for the study. The presentation focuses on studying students who have experienced some aspect of personal loss in their lives and how it has impacted their self-authorship. It also emphasizes the ‘cross roads experience’ and uses an integrative model for how professionals should approach students from this population. The presentation also provides key recommendations for student affairs professionals grounded in the theory.

Practical Tips for Integrating Student Success into Your NSEE Course – Cam Armstrong and Melanie Nogalski – 2015, Baylor University

Submission by Hollie Daniels

Psychosocial and Self-Authorship Application ck1_Telling_Our_StorySelf.pdf

The link above is a presentation given by the Director of Orientation Programs and former founding Director of the Master of Science in First-Year Studies program at Kennesaw State University. The presentation was given in 2015 at the annual conference of the Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention in Higher Education (NODA). Orientation and Transition Programs at Kennesaw State infuses self-authorship theory into their training program for orientation leaders and presentations at orientation. The orientation leader training includes a “Telling My Story” exercise at a retreat prior to the start of orientation. After the exercise, facilitators introduce self-authorship theory to the orientation leaders to “expand the idea” of the exercise and give context. Orientation leaders also complete a write/pair/share exercise with probing questions about their life experiences and time at Kennesaw State. The write/pair/share exercise is the driving force behind the content for the University’s “OWL Talks” presentations at orientation, which include “scenes” from the lives of current college students to give incoming freshmen an idea of the realities, challenges, and opportunities of college.


Annotations of Associated Literature



Original Citation


Baxter Magolda, M.B. (2001). Making their own way: Narratives for transforming higher education to promote self-development. Sterling, VA: Stylus.


Additional Resources



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