Reflective Judgment Model (King and Kitchener 1994)

King and Kitchener focused on the epistemological assumptions and the reasoning processes of older adolescents and adults specifically when they face ill-structured problems. They also identified a trend in the development of reasoning skills that is similar, to a certain degree, with the above-mentioned cognitive developmental frameworks.

They conducted interviews centered on four ill-structured problems on topics such as the objectivity of news reporting. Also, they asked participants to justify their point of view in six follow-up questions. Based on their findings, they proposed their Reflective Judgment Model, which includes seven stages that are organized into three types of thinking: Pre-reflective Thinking, Quasi-Reflective Thinking, and Reflective Thinking. In each stage, they also defined the “view of knowledge” and “concept of justification” to best describe the characteristics of these stages and the specific type of thinking.

Pre-reflective Thinking includes three stages (Stages 1, 2, and 3). In Stage 1, knowledge is absolute and needs no justification. This type of thinking typically exists in young children but is not observed in King and Kitchener’s studies. Stage 2 is similar to Perry’s Dualism in which knowledge is assumed to be absolutely certain and is possessed by authority or to be temporarily unavailable. In Stage 3, beside the certainty of knowledge, there is a component of knowledge that is temporarily uncertain, and judgment itself is based on personal opinion.

Quasi-Reflective Thinking includes two stages (Stages 4 and 5). In Stage 4, knowledge is uncertain and knowing always involves ambiguity. Arguments and evidence that support this knowledge are idiosyncratic. Stage 5 features the subjectivity and context specificity of knowledge. “Other theories could be as true as my own, but based on different evidence” (King and Kitchener 2002, p. 42). Hofer and Pintrich (1997) stated that this stage resembles some characteristics of relativism by Perry (1970). However, King and Kitchener stated that individuals in Stage 5 “frequently appear to be giving a balanced picture of an issue or problem rather than offering a justification for their own beliefs,” i.e., that “individuals are able to relate and compare evidence and arguments in several contexts” while however, they still cannot “coordinate evidence and arguments across context into a simple system.” This is different from Perry’s Relativism, Constructed knowledge (Belenky 1986), or Contextual knowing (Baxter Magolda 1992).

Reflective Thinking (Stages 6 and 7) parallels Relativism (Perry 1970), Constructed knowledge (Belenky 1986), and Contextual knowing (Baxter Magolda 1992) because, in this state, knowledge is an outcome of a process in which different solutions or evidence and perspectives are evaluated.

In King and Kitchener’s 20 years of longitudinal study, they studied participants ranging in age from their teenage years to middle adulthood. Their studies with early level graduate students showed mean scores between Stage 4 and Stage 5. Their studies with an advanced level of graduate students showed mean scores between Stage 5 and Stage 6. Stage 6 reasoning has only been typically observed among advanced doctoral students.

Again, King and Kitchener’s framework focused more on the application of knowledge beliefs in making justifications in the process of solving ill-structured problems. Their study focus is more on the thinking and justification process instead of on the applicants’ beliefs about knowledge. Therefore, it may not be directly comparable to the first three models although it did suggest a similar epistemological developmental trend.

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