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Assessing Meaning Making and Self-Authorship: Theory, Research, and Application: ASHE Higher Education Report 38:3

ISBN: 978-1-118-50054-5
160 pages
October 2012, Jossey-Bass
Assessing Meaning Making and Self-Authorship: Theory, Research, and Application: ASHE Higher Education Report 38:3 (1118500547) cover image

One reason so many students fail to achieve complex learning goals may be that they rely too heavily on others’ opinions about what to believe, who to be, and how to relate to others.

The meaning-making capacity of self-authorship provides a basis from which to understand and learn from one’s experiences; without this, students are at a loss to know how to make intentional choices about what to believe and how to act. Similarly, without a means to access and assess students’ meaning making, researchers are at a disadvantage in deciding how to interpret students’ academic performance and other behaviors, and educators are at a disadvantage in translating findings into the design of new programs and services.

This monograph is for those who are interested in understanding self-authorship and its assessment, and in using this approach in their own work. Drawing from well-established theories and extensive longitudinal research including nearly two thousand interviews, it offers a detailed account of how young adults’ capacities become more complex and adaptive over time. Those who understand the role of meaning making will be better able to document its effects on educational outcomes and provide better information to decision makers about program effectiveness.

Each monograph in the series is the definitive analysis of a tough higher education problem, based on thorough research of pertinent literature and institutional experiences. Topics are identified by a national survey. Noted practitioners and scholars are then commissioned to write the reports, with experts providing critical reviews of each manuscript before publication.

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Executive Summary vii

Foreword xi

Acknowledgments xv

Nudging Minds to Life: Self-Authorship as a Foundation for Learning 1

Meaning Making and Collegiate Learning Outcomes 4

The Nature of Meaning Making: Constructivist-Developmental Assumptions 5

Self-Evolution and the Journey Toward Self-Authorship 11

Conclusion 17

Assessing Self-Authorship and Its Evolution 21

Assessment Challenges 21

Assessment Formats 25

Four Interviews to Assess Self-Authorship 28

Conclusion 34

Development of the Ten Positions in the Journey Toward Self-Authorship 37

Baxter Magolda’s Study 37

Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education 40

Nuances of Self-Authorship 51

Trusting External Authority: External Positions 53

Trusting External Authority 54

Tensions with Trusting External Authority 59

Assessing Meaning Making and Self-Authorship v Recognizing Shortcomings of Trusting External Authority 62

Developmental Progression in External Meaning Making 65

Entering the Crossroads: Predominantly External Positions 67

Questioning External Authority 67

Constructing the Internal Voice 73

Developmental Progression in Entering the Crossroads 76

Leaving the Crossroads: Predominantly Internal Positions 77

Listening to the Internal Voice 77

Cultivating the Internal Voice 78

Developmental Progression in Leaving the Crossroads 86

Self-Authorship: Internal Positions 87

Trusting the Internal Voice 88

Building an Internal Foundation 90

Securing Internal Commitments 93

Developmental Progression in Internal Meaning Making 98

Using the Self-Authorship Assessment Guide 101

Assessing Student Characteristics and Experience 102

Example of a Phase 1 Summary (Excerpts) 104

Assessing Developmental Meaning Making 107

Example of a Phase 2 Summary (Excerpts) 107

Links Between Development and Experiences 116

Working Through Difficult Summaries 117

The Value of Listening to Students 119

Appendix: Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education: Qualitative Research Team 121

References 123

Name Index 131

Subject Index 133

About the Authors 137

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