Journal Articles

Self-Authorship: Advancing students' intellectual growth

Categories: Book Review, Issue 27(2)

Book by Peggy S. Meszaros
Review by Jeffrey McClellan
Career and Academic Counselor
Utah Valley State College


The concept of self-authorship emerged from the call for accountability regarding student learning outcomes and from the need to establish a critical pedagogy for the intentional, holistic, intellectual development of college students. The theory is grounded in Perry’s nine stages of intellectual development, which postulates that college students move from a dualistic perceptual, through a multiplistic, then a relativistic, and finally a commitment stage of intellectual development (p. 9). This maturation process occurs as individuals pursue a developmental journey that involves the intentional reshaping of their beliefs, identity, and relationships. Theoretically, the end result is a broad based, self-determined, intellectually independent identity.

This text consists of a series of chapters designed to address the current state of the theory and practice of self-authorship in response to the need for a pedagogical approach to teaching in higher education that promotes learning that fosters achievement and facilitates assessment of commonly accepted student learning outcomes.  The first chapter provides a brief overview of self-authorship as it relates to the journey of college student development. The analogy of a student and a teacher/advisor on a tandem bicycle is particularly insightful. The second chapter addresses the need to take the development of students seriously through collaboration across divisions and intentional integration  of theories of learning and development using the construct of self-authorship. Chapter three describes the use of a mixed methods approach to assessing self-authorship that has proven valid in a specific research study. This method demonstrates potential for assessing student learning outcomes of advising. Chapter four discusses the results of a study designed to examine the career decision making process of young women through the theoretic lens of self-authorship. The fifth chapter outlines the use of the learning partnerships model (LPM) of self-authorship development to a successful four semester course series dedicated to the exploration of earth sustainability.  I consider this one of the most valuable concepts in the text, given its potential to inform intentional advising efforts by outline a way to construct curriculum that facilitates the ongoing, iterative process of developmental advising. Unfortunately, however, the text does not provide clear insights regarding how LPM might be applied to advising, though many inferences could be drawn from the text. Finally, the last chapter suggests potential areas in which to apply self-authorship relative to learning outcomes, curriculum and pedagogy, academic advising, cocurricular activities, and graduate education and professional development.

While this text provides good insights relative to academic advising, for those unfamiliar with self-authorship this is probably not a good introductory text. For those already familiar with self-authorship, or those looking for specific suggestions related to assessment of learning outcomes and research regarding holistic, intellectual student development this text would prove beneficial. Some more sketchy insights may also be gleaned regarding career decision-making and the application of self-authorship to advising. For the most part, however, these must be intuited, as the limited direct discussion of advising is not particularly well developed.

In conclusion, while I found this text deeply enlightening due prior unfamiliarity with self-authorship, I now feel a strong need to find a more foundational text that will provide me with a better understanding of this profoundly useful concept.  The other texts I am considering are:

Magdola, M. B. B. (1999). Creating contexts for learning and self-authorship: Constructive-developmental pedagogy.  Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Magdola, M. B.B.  & King, P. M. (Eds.) (2004). Learning partnerships: Theory and models of practice to educate for self-authorship. Sterling, VA: Stylus



Self-Authorship: Advancing students’ intellectual growth (2007) Book by Peggy S. Meszaros (Ed.). Review by Jeffrey McClellan. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 112 pp., (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-7879-9721-2