Reflection is an everyday process. We reflect on a range of everyday problems and situations all the time: What went well? What didn’t? Why it didn’t ? and How do I feel about it?


People often think to themselves “if the same situation came up again, how would I act or approach it differently?”. Reflection can be a more structured way of processing in order to deal with a problem. This type of reflection may take place when we have had time to stand back from something, or talk it through, for example: ‘On reflection, I think you might be right’, or ‘On second thoughts, I realised he was more upset than me.’’

Reflection has many ways in which we can begin to learn, these may include:

  1. Making sense of experience We don’t always learn from experiences. Reflection is where we analyse experience, actively attempting to 'make sense' or find the meaning in it.
  2. 'Standing back' It can be hard to reflect when we are caught up in an activity. 'Standing back' gives a better view or perspective on an experience, issue or action.
  3. Repetition Reflection involves 'going over' something, often several times, in order to get a broad view and check nothing is missed.
  4. Deeper honesty Reflection is associated with 'striving after truth'. Through reflection, we can acknowledge things that we find difficult to admit in the normal course of events.
  5. 'Weighing up' Reflection involves being even-handed, or balanced in judgement. This means taking everything into account, not just the most obvious.
  6. Clarity Reflection can bring greater clarity, like seeing events reflected in a mirror. This can help at any stage of planning, carrying out and reviewing activities.
  7. Understanding Reflection is about learning and understanding on a deeper level. This includes gaining valuable insights that cannot be just 'taught'.
  8. Making judgements Reflection involves an element of drawing conclusions in order to move on, change or develop an approach, strategy or activity

Students and Reflection

Throughout university and clinical placements, you will be introduced to different theoretical knowledge and new practice experiences. Reflection is one way of helping you to link the theory and practice experiences and to consolidate your learning. Much of this learning is achieved by you being actively involved in reflective practice.

Through reflection, you can:

  • Focus your thoughts on your experiences.
  • Gain greater understanding of professional practice.
  • Be more aware of the knowledge and skills you have developed.
  • Identify your strengths and areas for development.
  • Develop an action plan for future practice.

Whilst we engage in reflection on a daily basis, much of this occurs in quiet moments when by ourselves. As a student, you will also be required to develop your skills in reflective writing. Whilst this skill may be new to you at the moment you will become more familiar with it as you progress as a student.

Writing a Reflection Although some may view reflective writing as a challenging skill, it is one that can be learned and improved with time and practice.

What do I reflect on?

You can reflect on any theoretical or practice experience within your professional development. These reflections can be of either a positive or negative event and can be:

  • Good examples of your practice.
  • Meaningful events.
  • The value of a clinical skill.
  • An event that frustrated you.
  • An event where you wanted to improve your knowledge.
  • An event that made you happy, sad, distressed, or a moral dilemma.

When engaging in reflection, it is important that you:

  • Be spontaneous.
  • Express yourself freely.
  • Be open to ideas.
  • Choose a time to suit you.
  • Be prepared personally.
  • Choose a reflective model.

Using models of Reflection

Using models of reflection can assist you in consolidating what you have experienced and how you can learn from it if a similar situation arises again. Models help guide your thinking and thought processes. Here are some models I have used in practice:

Kolbs (1984) Model of Reflection

Kolb’s reflective cycle is an experiential learning model, including the belief in which people learn from concrete experiences. The model has four key areas which you can begin at any point, however, you would usually start with an experience.

The four key areas of Kolb’s Reflective Cycle are:

  1. Experience - doing it
  2. Observations and reflections- reviewing and reflecting on the experience
  3. Development of ideas- learning from the experience
  4. Testing ideas in practice- planning, trying out what you have learned


Gibbs Model of Reflection Gibbs’ reflective cycle is a model often used by students as a framework in coursework assignments that require reflective writing. The model was created by Professor Graham Gibbs and appeared in Learning by Doing (1988).

The reflective process follows the 6 steps of the model so that each step informs the next. In practice, students often confuse the Evaluation, Analysis and Conclusion stages. These parts seem to ask similar questions and as a result, there can be a lot of repetition.

It looks like this:

Gibbs Doc

Rolfe’s framework for reflective practice

Rolfe et al (2001 Framework for reflexive practice

Rolfe et al (2001) propose a framework that uses Borton’s (1970) developmental model. The questions ‘What?, So what? And Now what?’, can stimulate reflection from novice to advanced levels. It is possible to use the model simply at the descriptive level for level 1 reflection. Firstly the practitioner reflects on the situation in order to describe it. The second phase encourages the practitioner to construct personal theory and knowledge about the situation in order to learn from it. At the third phase, the practitioner reflects on action and considers ways of improving the situation and reflects on the consequences of his/her actions. Rolfe et al consider this final stage as one, which can make the greatest contribution to practice.

A summary of his his framework is outlined below:

  • What the problem? ...was my role? ...happened? ...were the consequences?
  • So what ...was going through my mind? ...should I have done? I know about what happened now?
  • Now what I need to do? ...broader issues have been raised? ...might happen now?

Categories: Reflection

Tags: Course Experience Knowledge Learn Placements Questions Reflective-Practice Skills Students