Reflective Judgment Model
twenty years since its inception, The Reflective Judgment Model
has distinguished itself by its ability to describe the development
of reasoning from adolescence to adulthood. An extensive database
containing both longitudinal and cross-sectional research has informed
the work of developmental and educational psychologists, college
faculty, student affairs educators, and those concerned with college
outcomes assessment. The Reflective Judgment Model describes changes
in epistemic assumptions and how these affect the development of
critical or reflective thinking skills and related constructs in
young adults and adults, especially college students.
Dewey (1933, 1938) observed that reflective thinking is called for
when people recognize that some problems cannot be solved with certainty.
Drawing from this observation, King and Kitchener chose the term
"reflective judgment" to describe the kind of epistemic
cognition that includes the recognition that real uncertainty exists
about some issues. The Reflective Judgment Model describes development
in reasoning about such issues in late adolescence through adulthood.
judgment is drawn from the theoretical work of many scholars. Listed
below are scholars whose work informed the development of the Reflective
Judgment Model, and how their work contributed to the model.
Dewey (1933, 1938): definition of reflective thinking; the observation
that uncertainty is a characteristic of the search for knowledge
(1960, 1970 , 1974): assumptions of stage-related development;
the processes of assimilation and accommodation account for changes
in the conceptual structures used to understand the world
(1963, 1971, 1977): stage models generally assume that there are
qualitatively different structures organized into logically coherent
systems or stages; stages appear in an invariant sequence
(1968, 1981): sequential development in college students' underlying
assumptions about knowledge, truth, and values
(1975, 1978): epistemological development after relativism; earliest
stages of epistemological development are more characteristic
of children than college students
(1980; Lamborn & Fischer, 1988): cognitive skill theory model
of the development of complex reasoning; an individual's developmental
range falls between optimal and functional levels
(1982, 1994): evolution of the self; interpersonal relationships
as a developmental continuum
Reflective Judgment Model describes a dimension of cognitive development
based on the work of these scholars.
of the Reflective Judgment Model's Three Developmental Periods
conceptual framework for reflective judgment is that of a stage
model characterized by seven distinct but developmentally related
sets of assumptions about the process of knowing (view of knowledge)
and how it is acquired (justification of beliefs). Each successive
set of epistemological assumptions is characterized by a more complex
and effective form of justification. The seven developmental stages
of the Reflective Judgment Model may be broadly summarized into
three levels: prereflective (Stages 1-3), quasi-reflective (Stages
4 and 5), and reflective (Stages 6 and 7) thinking.
Reasoning (Stages 1-3): Belief that "knowledge is gained
through the word of an authority figure or through firsthand observation,
rather than, for example, through the evaluation of evidence. [People
who hold these assumptions] believe that what they know is absolutely
correct, and that they know with complete certainty. People who
hold these assumptions treat all problems as though they were well-structured"
(King & Kitchener, 2002, p. 39).
Quasi-Reflective Reasoning (Stages 4 and 5): Recognition
"that knowledge-or more accurately, knowledge claims-contain
elements of uncertainty, which [people who hold these assumptions]
attribute to missing information or to methods of obtaining the
evidence. Although they use evidence, they do not understand how
evidence entails a conclusion (especially in light of the acknowledged
uncertainty), and thus tend to view judgments as highly idiosyncratic"
(King and Kitchener, 2002, p. 40).
Reflective Reasoning (Stages 6 and 7): People who hold these
assumptions accept "that knowledge claims cannot be made with
certainty, but [they] are not immobilized by it; rather, [they]
make judgments that are "most reasonable" and about which
they are "relatively certain," based on their evaluation
of available data. They believe they must actively construct their
decisions, and that knowledge claims must be evaluated in relationship
to the context in which they were generated to determine their validity.
They also readily admit their willingness to reevaluate the adequacy
of their judgments as new data or new methodologies become available"
(King & Kitchener, 2002, p. 40).