Reflective Judgment Model: Underlying Assumptions
is the difference between well-structured and ill-structured problems?
Well-structured problems are problems that are defined completely
and resolved with certainty; they have single correct answers that
are ultimately available. They can also be described as monological
(e.g., answered within a single frame of reference with a specific
set of logical moves). A problem is considered well-structured when
the degree of complexity of the problem is known, or known with
some degree of certainty. An example of a well-structured problem
would be solving an algebraic story problem. Well-structured problems
do not require considering alternative arguments, seeking out new
evidence, or evaluating the reliability of data and sources of information.
Ill-structured problems, on the other hand, are problems about which
reasonable people reasonably disagree. These problems cannot be
solved by the simple application of an algorithm; they require making
judgments based on the strength of available evidence and the adequacy
of an argument. Ill-structured problems such as determining the
causes of overpopulation, hunger, pollution, and inflation are complex
problems of society that "cannot be described with a high degree
of completeness or solved with a high degree of certainty"
(King & Kitchener, 1994, p. 10).
Why a stage model? King and Kitchener (1994) concluded that
a stage model was the most appropriate framework for conceptualizing
the RJM because: (1) it captured the observed consistency between
defining components of the model that reflect an underlying, organized
structure (e.g., concept of justification and view of knowledge),
(2) it delineated the qualitative differences between the seven
sets of assumptions, and (3) it provided a framework for observed
sequential changes in the emergence of epistemic assumptions. However,
they endorse Rest's (1979) notion of a complex rather than a simple
stage model. Under the assumptions of a complex stage model, it
is not appropriate to say a person is "in" or "at"
a single stage. "Although an individual frequently may reason
using the assumptions of a given stage, it would be incorrect to
assume that she or he can use only one such set of stage-related
assumptions at a time, regardless of the circumstances under which
stage scores were assessed" (King, 1990, p. 84). In fact, most
individuals appear to use two and occasionally three (typically
adjacent) stages. See Lamborn and Fischer (1988) for a discussion
of optimal vs. functional developmental level.
What is the difference between reflective judgment and critical
thinking? The types of problems presented in Reflective Judgment
assessments differ from those usually presented in measures of critical
thinking. Rather than focusing on inductive or deductive logic skills,
or on critical thinking as a process of inquiry, reflective judgment
assessment problems acknowledge that epistemic assumptions-assumptions
about knowledge-are central to recognizing a problematic situation
(King & Kitchener, 1994). Wood (1983) articulated three dimensions
for the classification of types of problems: difficulty, complexity,
and structuredness. These three aspects are related. For example,
more complex problems are more difficult, and less-structured problems
are more complex. However, just because a problem is difficult does
not necessarily mean that it is complex, and just because a problem
is complex does not imply that it is less structured.