Reflection is a tool that is
used extensively in health and social care, particularly in education but also
in practice. While it is argued that reflection is a difficult concept to
define (Clarke et al, 1996; James and Clarke, 1994, both cited by Bulman in
Bulman and Schutz, 2008), Bulman (2008) describes it as “reviewing experience
from practice so that it may be described, analysed, evaluated and consequently
used to inform and change future practice”.
Reflection is used as part
of portfolio development and evidence of practice-based learning. It is
recognised as being a beneficial tool for use after critical incidents have
occurred to help practitioners and students reflect on experiences and generate
new knowledge. “Reflective writing is a valued tool for teaching nursing
students and for documentation, support and generation of nursing knowledge.
Reflection should be considered in a framework of self-awareness, context and
in the domain of a broader perception of health and healthcare issues.” (Craft,
Most theories about reflection
mention learning from the process as being an important element of it and state
that this is one reason why the activity is incorporated into nurse education
(Hannigan, 2001). Many models of reflection incorporate a stage of planning for
future events as a way of illustrating that learning has taken place.
Using a model when
reflecting can help users focus on learning and self-awareness after an
incident, and avoid simply retelling the events. Several reflective models
already exist, many of which consist of similar stages. The model individuals
choose to use is often based on their personal preference; however some are
over-simplified and do not address all the relevant issues (they allow users to
approach the process in a superficial way), while others are overly complex,
more structured and prescriptive, and difficult to remember without a textbook
in hand (Forrest, 2008).
One popular choice is Gibbs’
(1988) model. Professor Graham Gibbs
published his Reflective Cycle in his 1988 book “Learning by Doing.” It’s particularly useful
for helping people learn from situations that they experience regularly,
especially when these don’t go well.
Gibbs’ cycle is shown below.
Figure 1 – Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle