Authentic Self(-Authorship)

Marcia Baxter Magolda’s theory of self-authorship, though widely used for understanding college student development, aptly applies to the idea of teaching authentically.¬†Baxter Magolda’s theory has four phases: following formulas, crossroads, becoming the author of one’s life, and internal foundation (Patton, Renn, Guido, & Quaye, 2016).

Following formulas: self is defined by others (parents, authoritative figures, etc.), adhere to rules because it’s the norm

Crossroads: start to develop personal beliefs and opinions, but unsure how others’ beliefs and opinions impact you

Becoming the author of one’s life: ¬†making life decisions based on personal beliefs and opinions

Internal foundation: solid sense of self, able to act through personal ideals, while also understanding that everyone has personal beliefs, and relationships should have mutual respect

The route to becoming an authentic teacher seems to follow similar phases. As new teachers struggle to impress students, they rate their teaching only on how students react to them (do they like me or hate me?). Teachers may read about appropriate techniques, or “formulas”, but there is no personal touch to their teaching. Eventually, teachers may start to develop their own methods and attempt to implement them more in the classroom. After this, teachers could start to move away from the idea that they need to be popular, and instead use certain techniques because they fit with their personal style and ideals. Finally, teachers might develop a level of confidence that allows them to act authentically in the classroom. They might teach a certain way or talk about specific things not because they think they’ll score popularity points with students, but because they believe it’s an important lesson. Also at this stage, teachers will understand that students learn at a different pace, have varying interpretations and opinions, and unique personalities.

I’ve used Baxter Magolda’s theory of self-authorship to understand some of my own life decisions, and I’m excited to apply it more to teaching methods. Woohoo! Give it a try!

Patton, L. D., Renn, K. A., Guido, F. M., & Quaye, S. J. (2016). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice (3rd edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

2 Replies to “Authentic Self(-Authorship)”

  1. Thank you for your post Sarah. One thing that I’ve found in new educators is that they feel the need to be “seen” as knowledgeable by their students…do you think this could be countered by mindful teaching in the first place? If my role model teaches along the mindful learning paths then would I be more likely to teach that way as well, thereby reaching my authentic teaching self sooner…?!

    PS thank you for the wonderful resource.

  2. Ah, it feels like first semester of graduate school all over again! Thank you for taking me back to when we explored the work of Marcia Baxter Magolda. Fun Fact, I saw her at Kroger this summer! Random facts aside, I appreciated the way you connected self authorship to being an authentic teacher. I liked the struggles new teachers of wondering if students don’t like them or not. That is a struggle that is often difficult to overcome especially if you are starting your faculty career. However, knowing that it is a phase and that you can overcome it is helpful.

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