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Reflection Toolkit

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

One of the most famous cyclical models of reflection leading you through six stages exploring an experience: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan.

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle was developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988 to give structure to learning from experiences.  It offers a framework for examining experiences, and given its cyclic nature lends itself particularly well to repeated experiences, allowing you to learn and plan from things that either went well or didn’t go well. It covers 6 stages:

  • Description of the experience
  • Feelings and thoughts about the experience
  • Evaluation of the experience, both good and bad
  • Analysis to make sense of the situation
  • Conclusion about what you learned and what you could have done differently
  • Action plan for how you would deal with similar situations in the future, or general changes you might find appropriate.

Below is further information on:

  • The model – each stage is given a fuller description, guiding questions to ask yourself and an example of how this might look in a reflection
  • Different depths of reflection – an example of reflecting more briefly using this model

This is just one model of reflection. Test it out and see how it works for you. If you find that only a few of the questions are helpful for you, focus on those. However, by thinking about each stage you are more likely to engage critically with your learning experience.

A circular diagram showing the 6 stages of Gibbs' Reflective cycle

This model is a good way to work through an experience. This can be either a stand-alone experience or a situation you go through frequently, for example meetings with a team you have to collaborate with. Gibbs originally advocated its use in repeated situations, but the stages and principles apply equally well for single experiences too. If done with a stand-alone experience, the action plan may become more general and look at how you can apply your conclusions in the future.

For each of the stages of the model a number of helpful questions are outlined below. You don’t have to answer all of them but they can guide you about what sort of things make sense to include in that stage. You might have other prompts that work better for you.


Here you have a chance to describe the situation in detail. The main points to include here concern what happened. Your feelings and conclusions will come later.

Helpful questions:

  • What happened?
  • When and where did it happen?
  • Who was present?
  • What did you and the other people do?
  • What was the outcome of the situation?
  • Why were you there?
  • What did you want to happen?

Example of 'Description'

Here you can explore any feelings or thoughts that you had during the experience and how they may have impacted the experience.

  • What were you feeling during the situation?
  • What were you feeling before and after the situation?
  • What do you think other people were feeling about the situation?
  • What do you think other people feel about the situation now?
  • What were you thinking during the situation?
  • What do you think about the situation now?

Example of 'Feelings'

Here you have a chance to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work in the situation. Try to be as objective and honest as possible. To get the most out of your reflection focus on both the positive and the negative aspects of the situation, even if it was primarily one or the other.

  • What was good and bad about the experience?
  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What did you and other people contribute to the situation (positively or negatively)?

Example of 'Evaluation'

The analysis step is where you have a chance to make sense of what happened. Up until now you have focused on details around what happened in the situation. Now you have a chance to extract meaning from it. You want to target the different aspects that went well or poorly and ask yourself why. If you are looking to include academic literature, this is the natural place to include it.

  • Why did things go well?
  • Why didn’t it go well?
  • What sense can I make of the situation?
  • What knowledge – my own or others (for example academic literature) can help me understand the situation?

Example of 'Analysis'


In this section you can make conclusions about what happened. This is where you summarise your learning and highlight what changes to your actions could improve the outcome in the future. It should be a natural response to the previous sections.

  • What did I learn from this situation?
  • How could this have been a more positive situation for everyone involved?
  • What skills do I need to develop for me to handle a situation like this better?
  • What else could I have done?

Example of a 'Conclusion'

Action plan.

At this step you plan for what you would do differently in a similar or related situation in the future. It can also be extremely helpful to think about how you will help yourself to act differently – such that you don’t only plan what you will do differently, but also how you will make sure it happens. Sometimes just the realisation is enough, but other times reminders might be helpful.

  • If I had to do the same thing again, what would I do differently?
  • How will I develop the required skills I need?
  • How can I make sure that I can act differently next time?

Example of 'Action Plan'

Different depths of reflection.

Depending on the context you are doing the reflection in, you might want use different levels of details. Here is the same scenario, which was used in the example above, however it is presented much more briefly.

Adapted from

Gibbs G (1988). Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford.

Why I don’t like Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle in reflective practice

Reflective practice.

Reflective practice is a core tenet of many professions. From nursing to teaching – reflective practice is an aspect of qualification, a requirement of professional bodies and an accepted aspect of practice. Reflective practice requires an individual to engage in conscious thought about an experience, event or practice. Such thinking should be critical; considering both what has worked and what has not. The aim of such reflective thinking is to identify what went well so that you can keep doing it – and what hasn’t worked well so you can change it. In short, reflection should be a useful tool for future action. Reflection also requires some form of expression – from writing in a personal diary or keeping notes on your practice to having a conversation with peers or writing a formal essay. Reflection needs communicating – even if it is only for your own use.

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

While there are many different academic models of reflection, they usually revolve around three core components: an experience, thinking about an experience and then putting that learning into practice. Popular models include Kolb , Gibbs , Schön , Rolfe et al. , ERA and Brookfield . As a learning developer, I see these models used frequently in student work. There is, however, one model I see more than any: Gibbs ‘ Reflective Cycle – and I’m sick of it.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

Before I start the critique, I should first say that Gibbs’ model has its uses. The rigid structure serves some students well, setting out how their essays should look. Instead of fretting over planning, this is largely set out in Gibbs’ model.

Another advantage is that it annexes descriptions into a single section. While this can cause other problems, it at least contextualises the role of description in the rest of the piece – it is a small aspect. I also like how Gibbs’ refers to feelings as a distinct aspect. Feelings are often overlooked and their prominence in the Reflective Cycle is helpful at framing reflection as different from normal discursive academic writing.

Describe what happened briefly. Feelings - Describe feelings/emotional response. Evaluation - What was good/bad about response. Analysis - How do you make sense of it? (use research). Conclusions - General conclusions. Specific conclusions - Action Plan What would you do next time?

Criticisms of Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

Having given Gibbs some form of an introduction, this section briefly lists the issues:

  • The Reflective Cycle is boring – The six-stage model leaves little breathing room for interpretation or expansion. It produces essays that are samey.
  • The Reflective Cycle determines paragraphs – Most implementations of Gibbs’ model force students into a single paragraph per stage of the model. This doesn’t scale well as essay lengths increase, leading to too much description and feelings. It also does not provide much freedom on how different elements of a reflection are structured.
  • The Reflective Cycle can lead to superficial reflections – This is because Gibbs does not require the writer to challenge values or assumptions associated with any of their actions in the experience.
  • The Reflective Cycle fails to draw connections – Without linking the experience being reflected upon to other events, there is a missed opportunity to demonstrate depth.
  • The Reflective Cycle focuses too much on the reflector – While reflection is a highly individualistic thing, most approaches to it consider there are others. However, Gibbs fails to move beyond analysis of self. This can make reflections self-serving as opposed to individually useful (and sometimes that means challenging!).
  • The Reflective Cycle fails to pose probing questions – While deep, probing questions certainly can be associated with some of the aspects of Gibbs’ model, as presented in overview, these are lost. This, again, leads to superficial reflections.
  • The Reflective Cycle fails to engage critical thinking – While the model has components of evaluation and analysis, these are simply defined. Evaluation and analysis should present an opportunity for critical thinking – but this is largely absent.
  • The Reflective Cycle fails to contextualise – The distinct sections for description and feelings are set towards the front of an essay. This can makes it difficult to links between different aspects of evaluation and analysis with elements of description.
  • The Reflective Cycle confuses novices – So many students struggle to differentiate the evaluation and analysis. This can lead to mixed up sections. I also don’t know if the analysis and evaluation are the right way round. Sometimes I’m in favour of swopping – and others in favour of the status quo.

These points demonstrate many of the weaknesses associated with Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle. I often find simpler models more effective as they give more freedom and space for tailoring to the task required.

Other options

When considering Gibbs, it is also useful to consider that other models are available. My favourites right now are:

Rolfe et al’s (2001) framework focuses on three questions:

While this may seem simpler than Gibbs, I feel it allows more flexibility and adaptation. The three questions lead writers to consider a combination of description, links to theory and actions to take forward.

Brookfield’s (2005) four lenses encourage reflectors to consider an event from multiple perspectives

  • Lens of their own autobiography as teachers and learners
  • Lens of students’ eyes
  • Lens of colleagues experiences
  • Lens of educational literature

This directly addresses one of the critiques of Gibbs – that there is no consideration of others in depth.

3 thoughts to “Why I don’t like Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle in reflective practice”

well written piece Dr Lee

Well written piece. I am an educator and I am always disappointed at the quality and depth of my students use of the Gibbs cycle. It seems straight jacketed and boring. I will explore other models

Thank you for your critique of the Gibbs model. I thought I was in the company of none, having this irk me. I too am irritated at having Gibbs thrusted down my neck at every turn in educational settings. The same settings that advocate the importance of self guided learning. On reflection I have learnt, that I don’t learn from the afore mentioned model. I learned that I just conform to appease the person marking my paper.

End of rant.

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  • J Med Libr Assoc
  • v.108(3); 2020 Jul 1

Elevation through reflection: closing the circle to improve librarianship

Jolene m. miller.

1 [email protected] , Director, Mulford Health Science Library, and Assistant Professor, Library Administration, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH

Stephanie Friree Ford

2 gro.srentrap@drofeerirfs , Manager, Library Resources, Mental Health Sciences Library, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA

3 ude.etatsonserf.liam@98gnaya , Science Librarian, University Library, California Health Sciences University, Clovis, CA

Associated Data

There are no data associated with this article.

Reflective practice is a strategy promoted as a way to improve professional performance and to develop expertise. Intentional reflection on work situations can lead to improved understanding of a specific situation, identify strategies for similar situations in the future, and uncover assumptions that hinder service to patrons. Research has identified lack of knowledge to be a barrier to health sciences librarians engaging in reflective practice. This article introduces the use of intentional reflection at work: what it is, how it helps, and how it can be applied in librarianship. It also provides practical advice on how to choose a format, how to use a model to guide reflection, and how to incorporate it into work.

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Jolene M. Miller, MLS, AHIP


In her 2017 article in the Journal of Information Literacy , Corrall captures the challenge of incorporating intentional reflection into professional practice: “reflection is a deceptively simple idea that is easy to grasp at a basic level but may be hard to put into practice in a professional [librarian] context” [ 1 ]. It is an everyday process that often happens without conscious thought, but reflection with the goal of improving professional practice requires intention. Reflective practice is the process of bringing intentional reflection to one's work to improve practice: providing better instruction, managing electronic resources more effectively, interacting with coworkers more collaboratively, and so on. It closes the loop: new understandings are applied to personal and organizational processes to improve performance. Discoveries about oneself have an impact on thoughts, feelings, and behavior; and relationships improve.

The good news is that no one is a blank slate with respect to reflection at work. The language of reflective practice and the use of models may be new, but the experience of thinking back on a situation and trying to make sense of it is universal. Having a formal process of reflective practice can help health sciences and medical librarians identify and develop best practices. This article, born out of an immersion session offered at the Medical Library Association (MLA) 2019 annual meeting [ 2 ], is designed to help readers incorporate reflection into their professional practice.

There are many diverse published models of reflective practice ( supplemental Appendix A ). They all have three main components: (1) description of the experience, (2) reflection on and exploration of why things happened as they did, and (3) identification of changes to thinking and behavior to improve the outcomes of future experiences. Reflective practice usually starts with consideration of a specific experience that had an unexpected outcome. Most models include guiding questions to make sure that all aspects of the experience are considered, such as external aspects (what happened, who was involved) and internal aspects (how one was feeling before, during, and after the experience). External sources of information such as observations of other people or data from evaluation forms may also be included.

After describing the experience, one reflects on it. This is the core of reflective practice. “Why” questions are common in this stage, guiding analysis and interpretation of the experience [ 3 ]. This stage includes judgments: What went well in the experience? What could have gone better? What was one's role in the outcome? What important aspects still need to be identified and considered? After reflection, there is an invitation to action. What could have been done differently? How might the outcome have been different? What needs to be done to improve practice in the future? This could be a change in how things are done or how other people are treated. It could also be a change in thinking about and approaching situations with a different mindset [ 4 ].

In addition to having different stages and questions, models approach reflective practice from different perspectives [ 5 ]. While all reflective practice models encourage deeper thought about a situation, critical reflection models encourage exploration of the assumptions underlying situations, which is a key step in critical librarianship. Use of critical reflective practice can “direct and inform action that carries social and ethical implications beyond the technical execution of library work” [ 6 ]. It provides a method for identifying personal and professional values, exploring where thoughts and actions diverge from these values [ 7 , 8 ], and identifying courses of action that are consistent with these values. It uncovers hidden biases that influence decision making and hinder high-quality service. In the context of critical librarianship, it is used to identify opportunities to dismantle oppressive social structures and systems such as white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism [ 9 ].


One of the greatest human attributes is the ability to think about and reflect on actions and experiences, whether an unexpected flash of self-reflection, a well-thought-out journal entry, or somewhere in between. As Taylor states, “Thinking can be a gift and a curse, depending on how we employ it in our daily lives” [ 10 ]. Based on one's mindset, an experience can be used for good or for ill. For example, an employee may use a negative evaluation as a reason to place full blame for their poor performance on others, rather than use it as a sign to explore their strengths and weaknesses, structural challenges, and ways to improve their performance.

Making the deliberate choice to engage in reflective practice harnesses the power of thought to improve professional practice. Using intentional reflection at work offers a variety of benefits. While the process directly benefits the librarian doing the reflecting, the resulting changes can extend out to the library, institution, and the profession. Some of the ways that reflective practice improves professional practice are explored below.

Uncovering inconsistencies in thought and action

There are often inconsistencies between what people say they believe and how they act. Critical reflective practice can be used to examine espoused theories (what one says one believes) and theory-in-use (how one acts) [ 11 , 12 ]. Identifying inconsistencies is the first step in understanding them and resolving them. Are they true inconsistencies or nuanced distinctions? What next actions are needed? Reflection can also facilitate the application of professional standards and ethics in practice [ 13 ].

Improving regulation of emotions

Reflective practice can improve regulation of emotions. It allows librarians to approach situations more objectively and less reactively by the process of cognitive reappraisal. Cognitive reappraisal is a way of thinking differently about a situation that changes internal emotional experiences and, in turn, external emotional expression [ 14 ], with the goal of modifying emotions that hinder effectiveness. Reflective practice provides space to explore situations and new ways of thinking about them, reducing their emotional impact and the emotional impact of future situations.

Reducing burnout

Health sciences and medical librarians provide an array of intensive services: systematic reviews, liaison support, evidence-based practice or critical appraisal instruction, and in-depth research assistance. Managing and providing these services can increase stress and burnout. As noted above, reflective practice facilitates cognitive appraisal, which in turn reduces the risk of burnout caused by emotional labor and suppression of emotions.

While reflective practice in and of itself cannot solve organizational issues that lead to burnout, it can be used to explore how role ambiguity and overload contributes to personal stress and burnout [ 15 ]. The results of this reflection can be used in conversations with supervisors to improve position-related and structural issues. In addition, reflective practice can reduce the chance of burnout resulting from “over-learning” repetitive and routine tasks [ 16 ]. Taking time to reflect interrupts the “hamster wheel” of activity, reconnecting daily work to the importance of health sciences librarians' role in patient care, education, and research.

Maximizing professional development

Library school cannot prepare graduates for every possible future, especially health sciences and medical librarians. They must take an active role in their continuing professional development. Many attend webinars and training, while others obtain their credentials through MLA's Academy of Health Information Professionals. Reflective practice can be used to get the most out of the time and money invested in both continuing education and the development of a portfolio for the academy. Taking time to reflect before and after continuing professional development activities can improve learning and assist in the application of new knowledge and skills. Reflective practice can also be used for big-picture planning for professional development [ 17 ]. While some continuing education courses include reflection, many do not, requiring librarians to take a more proactive role. Suggestions on how to apply reflective practice in continuing professional development are provided in Table 1 .

Using reflective practice for professional development

Demonstrating professional performance

While reflective practice works best when the librarian wants to be engaged in reflection, some institutions require self-reflection as a part of the performance evaluation process, such as part of a portfolio [ 18 , 19 ]. Because meaningful reflection requires privacy and a trusted environment, reflection on one's performance takes place before the self-evaluation document is written. The document reports on the outcomes of the self-reflection, rather than the full reflective process.


Reflective practice can take on a variety of formats that can be used with a model, combination of models, or no model. Find the formats that work best, remembering that as needs change, so might preferred formats.

Reflecting alone without recording the reflections

The simplest way to engage in reflective practice is to reflect alone without recording the reflections. This is somewhat similar to meditation in that it is internal reflection; however, analysis and judgment occur that are absent in meditation. This format is a good option if time for reflective practice is short. It is better to think about a situation and not record, than to skip reflection altogether because of lack of time. One drawback to this format of reflective practice is that it relies on memory to track the outcomes of reflection.

Reflecting alone and capturing the reflection

Reflecting alone and recording the reflection is a popular format for reflective practice. Reflective writing (handwritten journal entry or typing an electronic document) is a common way to reflect, though audio or video recordings can also be used. The obvious benefit of this format is that the reflection is captured for future review. A less obvious but more important benefit of reflective writing is that the writing “is the reflective process,” rather than just a recording of the reflection [ 20 ], because the physical process of writing helps clarify thoughts and conclusions. Librarians who are not comfortable with writing could use a form (perhaps based on steps in a reflective practice model) to jot down key ideas from reflection.

Talking with another person, such as a colleague or mentor

For some, talking through reflection can be effective. Reflective conversation with another person, such as a colleague or a mentor, can lead to additional insight. An outsider's perspective and questions might shed some light on the situation and increase understanding. These conversations need to take place in an environment that is confidential in order to explore situations fully and honestly. Reflective conversations can also be held with a supervisor, though the power differential may hinder deep reflection and honesty. Reflective conversations have additional aspects that need to be considered, which are listed in supplemental Appendix B .

Talking with a group of people

Small group discussions are another format for those who would like to verbalize their reflections. Group members can support one another in their reflections and learn from each other's successes and mistakes. It can be a regularly scheduled meeting or one called specifically when someone is looking for outside perspectives. Health sciences and medical librarians who work in different environments (e.g., academic, hospital, corporate) can consider forming groups with the intention of conducting reflection. Having some commonalities and some differences supports rich discussion. While reflecting in a group has similar considerations as reflecting with one other person (confidentiality and potential power differentials), it has additional considerations, such as how the group will be facilitated. Supplemental Appendix B lists considerations for being part of a reflective small group.

Reflecting alone, followed by talking with others

Another option is a combination of reflecting alone and then talking with others, either one-on-one or in a group. This is particularly helpful for those who have trouble identifying the outside perspective or overcoming other challenges in the reflective process. Talking to one or more colleagues can foster deeper individual reflection. Personality, preference, and opportunity will have an impact on format choice. Regardless of the chosen formats, reflection can be freeform or follow a model.


There is no formal model for conducting reflection that is geared toward health sciences and medical librarians; however, there are many published models in other professions. A reflective practice model can be used exactly as described in the literature or it can be used as a loose guide. As noted above, it can be turned into a form, where brief answers or comments can be jotted down without extra narrative. Models often provide a visual structure of the reflective process, which allow individuals who are reflecting to incorporate a process for thinking about their experiences, rather than have thoughts float around out of context [ 10 ]. Using a model can be particularly helpful for people who are new to reflective practice or for those who want to deepen their practice. Three example models are described below. Additional models can be found in supplemental Appendix A .

Situation, Evidence, Action (SEA)-Change Model

There are varied reflective practices models from many disciplines, yet the nature of intentional reflection requires the three components described earlier: description of the experience, reflection on and exploration of why things happened as they did, and identification of changes to thinking and behavior to improve the outcomes of future experiences. Some models—such as the Situation, Evidence, Action (SEA)-Change Model ( Table 2 ) that originated in professional library education—focus on these three elements. Instead of including generic questions to guide reflection, the SEA-Change Model identifies characteristics of deep reflection, as defined by Moon [ 21 ]. While the complete model includes a de-scaffolding component to help instructors facilitate student autonomy during reflection, leading to independence, the core of the model is three steps: identify the situation, provide the evidence, and follow through with an action or change [ 22 ].

Situation, Evidence, Action (SEA)-Change model

Adapted by permission of Barbara A. Sen.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle Model

Other models, such as Gibbs' Reflective Cycle Model ( Table 3 ) from the literature of teacher education, include more stages—"Description,” “Feelings,” “Evaluation,” “Analysis,” “Conclusion,” and “Action Plan”—and provide guiding questions to foster a more complete reflection [ 23 ]. Even with these extra stages, the three core components of reflective practice are present.

Used under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License by Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Brookes University, Wheatley Campus, Wheatley, Oxford, UK, OX33 1HX.

Kim's Critical Reflective Inquiry Model

Some models apply the three main elements of reflective practice to a specific focus. Kim's Critical Reflective Inquiry Model ( Figure 1 ), from the literature of advanced nursing practice, describes three phases: “Descriptive,” “Reflective,” and “Critical/Emancipatory” [ 24 ]. In addition to reflection on the situation, it explicitly calls for reflection on one's espoused theories and intentions. This provides appropriate material for the final stage: critiquing practice and participating in the process that leads to change. The key aspect of this model requires critiquing beliefs, assumptions, and personal and professional values. Because of the nature of critical reflective practice, this model benefits from a combination of individual reflection and reflective conversation with others.

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These three models are a small sample of published reflective practice models. When reviewing models for possible use, consider whether you are:

  • New to reflective practice? Consider a model that includes guiding questions.
  • Short on time? Consider a simple three-component model.
  • Interested in a specific theoretical underpinning? Some models are highly informed by specific theories; others are more practical. Make sure to review the theories used and the assumptions made by potential models. For example, Ghaye offers a strengths-based model [ 25 ].
  • Interested in creative expression? There are models that incorporate storytelling [ 26 ] and poetry [ 27 ] as part of the reflective process.

Remember that all models include describing a situation, using reflection to make sense of it, and identifying and making appropriate changes.


The beauty of reflective practice is that it can be used by health sciences and medical librarians in any type of library, in any type of work, and at any stage in their careers. There are many ways in which reflective practice can be applied to librarianship.

Evidence-based library and information practice

Reflective practice is an important component of evidence-based library and information practice (EBLIP) [ 28 , 29 ]. Koufogiannakis and Brettle state that “EBLIP asks librarians to think critically about their practice and the process they use in making decisions” [ 30 ]. Reflection is embedded throughout the process, starting with an articulation of the problem to solve or decision to be made and ending with evaluation of the implemented solution or decision made. The journal Evidence-Based Library and Information Practice has a column called “Using Evidence in Practice,” which provides a place for librarians to share their experiences with applying evidence to a situation, including a reflection on their processes.

Reflective practice can also be used to improve librarians' skills as creators of evidence. Some authors focus on specific techniques, such as reflective writing [ 31 ], while others situate reflective practice in the broader context of research [ 32 , 33 ]. Hypothesis , the journal of the MLA Research Caucus, recently introduced a column called “Failure,” which is an opportunity for health sciences library researchers to reflect on challenges in the research process and how the challenges could have been avoided, allowing others to learn from their experiences [ 34 ].

Critical librarianship

Critical librarianship, “bringing social justice principles to…work in libraries” [ 35 ], relies on critical reflection to explore areas where libraries and librarians are supporting systems of oppression and to identify alternatives [ 36 ]. Articles on critical librarianship often identify examples and questions from librarianship or other disciplines that can be incorporated into critical reflection. For example, the #CritLib moderators post questions to be discussed at upcoming Twitter chats that can be adopted for individual critical reflection [ 35 ], and questions from parts of the chats are archived on the website. Regardless of the source of guidance for critical reflection, it is important to critical librarianship that the reflection results in action: “linking reflection to action is the enactment of critical practice ” [ 6 ].

Improvement of teaching

Teacher education has a long tradition of reflective practice to improve instruction and classroom management, resulting in a large body of knowledge that has informed the professional development of librarians in teaching roles. Reflective practice has been promoted as a tool for improving teaching skills [ 37 – 39 ] and as a technique for developing one's identity as a teacher [ 4 , 38 ]. The Association of College & Research Libraries' Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education has been suggested as a tool to guide reflection with the purpose of improved instruction [ 40 ]. Reflective practice is a key component in the development of a teaching portfolio [ 18 ].

Management and leadership

Reflective practice is a helpful tool for administrators, both for helping employees improve their performance and improving the supervisor's own practice. An institution may require employees to complete self-evaluations of their performance prior to the supervisors' evaluations. These annual self-evaluations can be difficult as employees struggle to remember a year's worth of activity. Reflective practice can mitigate the process. Supervisors can encourage their employees to reflect on a regular basis, whether it be monthly, quarterly, or biannually, as an effective way for employees to review their own work and track what was done, constructively gain insight into their performance, and document outcomes of practice improvement processes. This use of reflective practice enables thoughtful consideration of performance and can be used in informal or structured ways.

Reflective coaching can be used with employees between annual evaluations [ 41 ]. Reflective practice is beneficial to individual managers and to management teams. Just as the act of reflecting on one's own past work is a helpful tool for employees, it is also helpful for managers. It is a learning process itself, and that learning enables future change and a higher understanding of one's own strengths and weaknesses. Beyond specific work situations, resources are available to use reflection to explore core aspects of leadership [ 19 , 42 ].

It is not easy to engage in reflective practice. It takes time, dedication, and energy, any or all of which can be in short supply. Investing in one's self and one's career to become a better health sciences or medical librarian is worth the cost. Here are some tips to support exploration of reflective practice.

Pay attention

Reflective practice includes aspects of mindfulness, as only through paying attention can situations that would benefit from reflection be identified, such as surprising outcomes or uneasy feelings [ 43 ]. With a mindful approach, one can explore situations and alternatives in a way in which defensiveness is reduced, improving one's ability to plan and take action.

Be intentional and purposeful

Start each reflection with an intention to guide the time: why reflect on the identified situation? It is easy to start reflecting on a particular situation and then drift to something else. Granted, the tangent might lead to an important discovery, but an intention can help maintain focus. Sample intentions are how to improve an instruction session with negative evaluations or how to work more efficiently with the information technology (IT) department to streamline access to library resources.

Use a model to get started

As noted above, using a model can help visualize the process and provide a structure for the reflection. Most reflective practice models include a series of questions that can be used to guide reflection. Pick one that seems likely to work well for the current situation (time available, experience with reflective practice, complexity of the intention, and so on). If it does not work as well as expected, try another.

McCorquodale advises: “Value yourself enough to take time to reflect on your practice” [ 44 ]. One of the most common factors identified as a barrier to engaging in reflection is lack of time [ 45 , 46 ]. Everyone leads busy lives, and scheduling time for reflection is the first step to incorporating reflective practice into work life. What is needed: scheduling reflection time regularly or reflecting when a situation arises? If regular reflection is desired, when would be the best time and day to schedule it? Is it scheduled after certain kinds of events, such as after each instruction session? How long might a reflection period last? Block out reflection time on the schedule and defend it. Remember why investing time and effort in reflective practice is worthwhile.

Finding a space to reflect is as important as making time. The office is not ideal as there are often too many distractions and interruptions. Whether it is a couch in the library or a table at a coffee shop, find a space to conduct reflection. The space should be a place where one feels confident, protected, free from discrimination, and secure to conduct efficient reflection.

Find support

There are many different types of support that can be utilized to help to make the reflection process easier. Support from a supervisor can help facilitate the process by helping to find time to reflect. This support will allow the supervisor to see an interest in assessing the quality of the employee's work for professional growth. Supplementing independent reflection with conversation with trusted colleagues (individually or in a group) can provide feedback, clarity, support, and accountability. There are multiple opportunities to find a mentor through professional organizations such as MLA, the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, and regional or state associations.

Be consistent

Reflective practice is not a skill learned overnight. Like all skills, experience brings improvement both in the reflective process and the application of insights from reflection to professional practice. Consider keeping track of reflections and outcomes in order to reflect on them. Reviewing that history can help identify how reflective practice skills have improved. Reflective practice is not a “one-size fits all” methodology, and there will be some trial and error to find what works best. Additional resources about reflective practice can be found in supplemental Appendix C .

Developing a practice of using intentional reflection does not happen quickly or spontaneously. It requires practitioners to be purposeful and build processes for reflective practice. The investment of time and energy in intentional reflection allows health sciences librarians to learn from their experiences and most importantly, helps them close the circle and apply what they have learned to improve their professional practice.


Supplemental files.

Niagara Institute

How To Lead a Gibbs Reflective Cycle Exercise (+Template)

Picture of Michelle Bennett

When was the last time you or your team stepped back and learned from an experience or situation at work? For many who are fighting to meet tight deadlines and deliver on pressing projects, taking time to learn from experience and reflect on situations falls by the wayside. 

However, new research shows that is a mistake, as taking time to reflect on scenarios at work improves performance in the long run. Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino explains why: "When we stop, reflect, and think about learning, we feel a greater sense of self-efficacy. We're more motivated, and we perform better afterward." To make reflection an intentional activity for your team, you’ll want to run a Gibbs Reflective Cycle exercise to help you make reflection an intentional activity. In this article, we’ll review the Gibbs Reflective Cycle, the corresponding model, and how to run the exercise, as well as provide you with a template you can use with your own team.

What is the Gibbs Reflective Cycle?

  • What is the Gibbs Model of Reflection?
  • How To Lead a Gibbs Reflective Cycle Exercise
  • Gibbs Reflective Cycle Template

The Gibbs Reflective Cycle is a systematic process that individuals and teams can use to reflect upon and learn from their experiences at work. Originally put forth by Professor Graham Gibbs in his 1988 book, Learn by Doing , the Gibbs Reflective Cycle is a step-by-step approach to analyzing and understanding the complexities of workplace situations. The purpose is to gain valuable insights and improve decision-making in the future.

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

What is the Gibbs Model of Reflection? What Are the Six Stages? 

The Gibbs Reflective Cycle centers on a model that consists of six stages, known as the Gibbs Model of Reflection. The model outlines the process by which individuals and teams follow to learn from different experiences at work. Here are the six stages and a brief description of each: 

  • Description
  • Action Plan 

The Gibbs Reflective Cycle - Niagara Institute

1. Description

The Gibbs Reflective Cycle starts by objectively describing the situation or experience that is to be evaluated and reflected upon. In this stage, you will provide details regarding the context and individuals involved, as well as any relevant background information.

2. Feelings

The second step in the Gibbs Reflective Cycle is to explore your emotions during the experience in question. Here, you will note the positive and negative feelings you had during the experience. Identifying and acknowledging emotions is critical to gaining a deeper understanding of the situation.

3. Evaluation 

At this stage of the Gibbs Reflective Cycle, you break down the experience into two areas - what went well and what could have been improved. It is in this stage that you will assess the strengths and weaknesses of your approach, considering both your actions and the outcomes.

4. Analysis

Now, it’s time to dig deeper into the situation to determine the root cause of the underlying factors contributing to the outcomes. Here is where you’ll begin to make sense of what happened by taking the details of what happened (steps one to three) and the meaning behind it.

5. Conclusion

Equipped with your analysis of the situation, you will want to summarize the key learnings from your reflection. Here, you will identify what you learned from this experience and the insights you will apply to similar situations in the future.

6. Action Plan

The last step of the Gibbs Reflective Cycle is to create an action plan based on your analysis and conclusions outlining the specific steps to be followed to improve performance or address any skill gaps. In this final reflection step, you will want to set measurable goals and define actionable strategies, such as a training plan , to help you implement the lesson learned and grow as an individual or team.

Instructions: How To Lead a Gibbs Reflective Cycle Exercise to Learn from Experience

Gibbs Reflective Cycle Template from Niagara Institute

Step 1: Pick the Situation and Detail What Happened

You will likely already have an idea of the situation in which you want your team to learn from experience. Situations often include when something goes wrong, a mistake is made , negative feedback is received, there is a conflict , a timeline isn’t met, or a goal is not achieved. Once the situation is determined, ask your team a series of questions to help describe the situation in detail. Here is a list of example questions you might ask:

  • When did this happen?
  • Who was involved?
  • What happened?
  • What was the team’s/individual’s response?
  • What was the response of the other people involved?
  • What was the outcome of this situation?

Step 2: Explore Feelings and Reactions

The next step is to explore the feelings and reactions related to the situation. The goal is to bring awareness to how certain feelings may have impacted the experience. Here is a list of example questions you might ask to encourage this level of reflection: 

  • What were your/the team’s feelings during the situation?
  • What were your/the team’s feelings before and after the situation?
  • What do you think other people were feeling about the situation?
  • What do you think they feel about the situation now?
  • What were you thinking during the situation?
  • What do you think about the situation now that some time has passed?

Step 3: Evaluate What Worked and What Didn’t

Once the situation has been clearly defined and feelings have been explored, it’s time to evaluate the situation by looking at the positives and negatives. While it may be hard, it is important that you and your team are objective and honest in your evaluation. Here are a few example questions you might ask during this step: 

  • What worked? What was good about the experience?
  • What didn’t work? What was bad about the experience?
  • What positive aspects did you, the team, and others contribute to the situation?
  • What negative aspects did you, the team, and others contribute to the situation?
  • Was the situation resolved in the end?

Step 4: Determine the Root Cause of the Situation

Next, you will want to identify the root cause of the situation or experience. You should draw upon theory or literature to help explain what happened. The Niagara Institute has a robust library of articles on teamwork, leadership, communication, and conflict management, to name a few. Here are a few questions to ask to help your team get to the bottom of the root cause: 

  • Why did things go well/badly?
  • Could you/the team respond in a different way?
  • What could have been done differently to improve the situation?
  • Is there any theory or literature that can explain what happened?

Step 5: Summarize What Happened and What Was Learned

Once that is complete, you and your team will need to come to a conclusion regarding what happened and what you have learned from it. Encourage your team to review the situation again by assessing the information you’ve gathered and tracked from the previous steps. To get them to do so, ask the following types of questions: 

  • What was learned from this situation?
  • What could have been done differently to make this a more positive experience for everyone involved?
  • What can you/the team now do better?
  • What skills (individual or team) are needed to ensure a better outcome next time?
  • Are there any new processes that should be implemented to ensure a better outcome?

Step 6: Create An Action Plan

The final step is to create an action plan that will help ensure similar situations are avoided or handled more effectively in the future. You’ll want to address any skill gaps, process improvements, or behavioral changes that need to be made. Doing so will show your leaders and those you lead that you’re proactive in making changes to ensure the outcome of a similar situation in the future will be different. Here are a few questions you may ask at this point: 

  • What skills or behaviors need to be developed?
  • What plans, policies, or procedures need to be implemented?
  • How will you/your team hold each other accountable to ensure the outcome is different next time?

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  • Learn From Your Past Experience with Gibb’s Reflective Cycle
  • Exploring Different Types of Reflection Models with Examples

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You must have heard about Gibbs' reflective cycle. It is a widely prominent reflective cycle that helps individuals to work through past experiences and improve future practices. Gibbs' The reflective cycle was developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988 with the main aim of structuring individual learnings from past experiences (Markkanen et al., 2020). Effective utilization of this cycle offers a wide opportunity to examine past experiences and improve future actions.

Table of Contents

Six stages of gibbs' reflective cycle.

  • Example of Gibbs' reflective cycle

Hence, the efficacious use of Gibbs' reflective cycle helps individuals to learn from past experiences that went well as well as past experiences that did not. The 6 stages of Gibbs' cycle include description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion, and action plan (Smith & Roberts, 2015).

For each step of this framework, you can work on a set of helpful questions given below to properly reflect on your past experiences and situations.

Stage 1: Description

The first step in Gibbs' reflective cycle is a description where you get an opportunity to properly describe a situation based on your experience. The following questions can assist you in describing your experience are

  • What happened? In this, you will explain the factual information about the experience you want to reflect upon.
  • Why did it happen? In this, you will underline the main reason behind the occurrence of the event.
  • What did you do? While answering this question, you will highlight all the actions taken by you.
  • Who was present? In this, you will highlight all the people that were present during the event.
  • What were the major outcomes? In this, you will underline the results of the actions that were taken by you.

Using these questions, you will provide complete background information about an incident as well as a factual description of the event you want to reflect upon.

Stage 2: Feelings

The second step in Gibbs’ reflective cycle is an analysis of your feelings where you can describe your thoughts as well as feelings in detail to reflect on the corresponding experience of your feelings. You can reflect on this phase on the basis of a few assisting questions given below:

  • What did you feel? In this section, you will highlight your feelings during the experience.
  • Why did you feel this way? You will highlight the major reasons behind feeling the way you were feeling.
  • How did other external factors influence your feelings? In this section, you will underline the positive or negative influence of other external factors such as the environment, and other involved people on your feelings.
  • How did other internal factors influence your feelings? In this section, you will highlight the influence of various internal factors such as mindset, attitude, and physical or mental health.

These questions will help you to describe your feelings and the way in detail and will also assist in making the reader understand your emotional aspect from the incident you are reflecting upon.

Stage 3: Evaluation

In the evaluation phase, you get a chance to properly evaluate what worked well and what didn't work well. This phase includes the evaluation of experiences from both good as well as bad points, allowing you to mentally create a report of the experience. Below given are the questions that can be answered in this phase

  • What worked well? In this, you will highlight the positive outcomes of your actions throughout the experience.
  • What didn't work well? This will highlight all the negative outcomes of your actions taken by you throughout the experience.
  • What did you contribute? Through this question, you will highlight your contribution to the whole experience.
  • What did others contribute? While answering this question, you will highlight the actions of others that were involved in the situation.
  • What was missing? In this, you will highlight the actions that were missing in the experience as per your opinion.

Based on these questions, you can honestly and objectively evaluate the past situation which will also help you in setting a base for future actions.

Elaboration of Gibbs reflective cycle

Stage 4: Analysis

In an analysis phase, you can make sense of a whole situation and determine the exact meaning of a situation along with the reasons for its success or failure. Some helpful questions for the analysis phase of Gibbs’ reflective cycle include

  • Why did things not work well? In this, you will point out the reason as per your knowledge that contributed to the failures of your actions in your experience.
  • Why did things go well? Through this section, you will highlight the reasons behind the success of your actions.
  • What is the exact meaning that we can drive from a situation? While answering this question, you will highlight the overall analysis of the situation.

Based on the analysis, you can get a clear picture of the situation and ensure that every aspect of the situation is covered and understood meticulously.

Stage 5: Conclusion

After a proper situation analysis, you can also conclude the whole situation by reflecting on your learnings. In this phase, you can highlight changes that you need to make to your actions while dealing with future situations. In this phase, a list of questions includes

  • What did you learn? In this, you will highlight all of your main learnings of the situation.
  • What skills do you need to gain to handle situations more effectively? Through this, you will highlight the requirements of the skills for handling the situation better in the future.
  • What else could you have done to deal with situations differently? In this, you will highlight the alternative actions that you could have taken to respond to the same situation in a different manner.

After the analysis, in the conclusion phase, using the above questions, you will clearly outline your learnings and the skills gained through the experience.

Stage 6: Action plan

In the action plan stage in Gibbs’ reflective cycle, you can plan to deal with future situations. It is an important phase of this reflective cycle as this phase helps to determine ways to deal with similar situations in the future and actions that you need to take to improve your ability to deal with various situations. Some questions that can be considered in this stage include

  • How will you deal with this situation more effectively in the future? In this, you will highlight the actions that you have thought of that will help you in dealing with a similar situation differently in the future.
  • How will you develop your skills and abilities to deal with similar situations? In this situation, you will highlight the methods in which you will develop the skills for dealing with situations more effectively.

After understanding the cycle, let us now take an example of reflective practice in health education to reflect on the learning situation using Gibbs’ reflective cycle.

Gibbs’ reflective cycle example in health education

Case assessment - This reflective example will highlight the experience of students in a group task of completing a health project. In this, a student will reflect upon a group task assigned to students during their MSc in health practice.

While doing my MSc in health practice, I was required to engage in various group work assignments and during a certain group work task, my team members decided to divide tasks among group members. All team members encouraged me to divide the tasks among the team. I divided tasks among team members according to their knowledge regarding various healthcare practices to ensure that all tasks are completed within a set deadline. All team members encouraged me to divide the tasks among the team. I divided tasks among team members according to their knowledge regarding various healthcare practices to ensure that all tasks are completed within a set deadline. However, I failed to consider the risk of various contingencies in completing projects and the same occurred when one of our team members was hospitalized due to some health emergency which resulted in a lack of task completion assigned to that team member. My whole team was present when I got a call from the injured team member about the accident that occurred to him. This then resulted in an increased burden to complete tasks among team members and failure to complete a task on time.

Before beginning the health project, I was very confident regarding my team management capabilities. I felt that our team will be able to complete assigned tasks on time due to my strong knowledge and abilities. I was already feeling very guilty that our project got delayed because of my lack of planning but the external factors made me feel even worse. Other than that, I felt like it was my overconfidence that made me feel more guilty because things did not work as planned.

During the group health project, a thing that worked well was the effort of team members to complete work within the extended deadline was cooperation as well as motivation among all team members. However, I believe that the hospitalization of one team member resulted in a lack of task completion on time. I felt that contingency planning is one most important requirement in a team project which was missing in this project. Thus, I believe that I am also responsible for the bad repercussions of this situation as I failed to properly plan and did not consider the risks of contingencies in a group. But still, till the end, everyone contributed effectively and did not lose hope till the end and gave their best.

I think the major reasons behind the successful completion were group efforts, cooperation abilities, self-identification of strengths, effective division of tasks, and ability to help others. However, the only thing that created a problem in completing a project is a lack of time management and planning capabilities. Through this whole experience, I believe that I need to focus on improving my time management skills as well as leading the ability to effectively manage group tasks.

After getting into this group health project, I got to know that time management and contingency planning are important skills that every project manager needs to possess to effectively manage group tasks. I also found that team management is possible only through the cooperation of team members as well as their effort to give the best results to a team project. I learned that as a project manager, it is always better to have a contingency plan ready for implementation than to develop one as risk is taking its toll (Heimann, J. F. 2000). However, I found that various problems can arise in a group task which could be managed effectively by making contingency plans for such situations in advance. I would have prepared contingency plans in the beginning and I believe that it would have helped me in dealing with situations differently.

In order to deal with this situation in the future, I have decided that I will use various time management tools such as PERT and CPM while planning various group tasks to keep separate times for various contingencies. For enhancing my time management and planning skills, I have decided to use time management skills such as making time tables and assigning time blocks for each task. If a similar situation occurs again in the future, I will ensure that in the planning phase only, I take time for contingency planning and plan things accordingly.

How to reference Gibbs reflective cycle?

To reference Gibbs' reflective cycle, include the author's name "Gibbs" and the publication year (if available) in parentheses. For instance, in APA style, it would be: (Gibbs, 1988). If you use a direct quote, add the page number as well.

Can Gibbs' Reflective Model be used in any profession?

Yes, the model is versatile and applicable in various professions and fields, including education, healthcare, social work, and more.

What are the disadvantages of Gibb's reflective cycle?

Gibbs' reflective cycle lacks a strong theoretical foundation and may not suit complex or long-term learning experiences. Some of you may even find its structured approach restrictive that could potentially overlook unique aspects of individual experiences. Additionally, it may not be universally applicable to various learning contexts.

Previous Model

Markkanen, P., Välimäki, M., Anttila, M., & Kuuskorpi, M. (2020). A reflective cycle: Understanding challenging situations in a school setting. Educational Research, 62(1), 46-62.

Smith, J., & Roberts, R. (2015). Reflective Practice. Vital Signs For Nurses, 222-230.

Heimann, J. F. (2000). Contingency planning as a necessity. Paper presented at Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium, Houston, TX. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.


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Article • 5 min read

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

Helping people learn from experience.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

Many people find that they learn best from experience.

However, if they don't reflect on their experience, and if they don't consciously think about how they could do better next time, it's hard for them to learn anything at all.

This is where Gibbs' Reflective Cycle is useful. You can use it to help your people make sense of situations at work, so that they can understand what they did well and what they could do better in the future.

What Is Gibbs' Reflective Cycle?

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

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

From "Learning by Doing" by Graham Gibbs. Published by Oxford Polytechnic, 1988.

Gibbs' original model had six stages. The stage we haven't covered here is "Analysis" – we've included this as part of the Evaluation stage.

Using the Model

You can use the model to explore a situation yourself, or you can use it with someone you're coaching – we look at coaching use in this article, but you can apply the same approach when you're on your own.

To structure a coaching session using Gibbs' Cycle, choose a situation to analyze and then work through the steps below.

Step 1: Description

First, ask the person you're coaching to describe the situation in detail. At this stage, you simply want to know what happened – you'll draw conclusions later.

Consider asking questions like these to help them describe the situation:

  • When and where did this happen?
  • Why were you there?
  • Who else was there?
  • What happened?
  • What did you do?
  • What did other people do?
  • What was the result of this situation?

Step 2: Feelings

Next, encourage them to talk about what they thought and felt during the experience. At this stage, avoid commenting on their emotions.

Use questions like these to guide the discussion:

  • What did you feel before this situation took place?
  • What did you feel while this situation took place?
  • What do you think other people felt during this situation?
  • What did you feel after the situation?
  • What do you think about the situation now?
  • What do you think other people feel about the situation now?

It might be difficult for some people to talk honestly about their feelings. Use Empathic Listening at this stage to connect with them emotionally, and to try to see things from their point of view.

You can use the Perceptual Positions technique to help this person see the situation from other people's perspectives.

Step 3: Evaluation

Now you need to encourage the person you're coaching to look objectively at what approaches worked, and which ones didn't.

  • What was positive about this situation?
  • What was negative?
  • What went well?
  • What didn't go so well?
  • What did you and other people do to contribute to the situation (either positively or negatively)?

If appropriate, use a technique such as the 5 Whys to help your team member uncover the root cause of the issue.

Step 4: Conclusions

Once you've evaluated the situation, you can help your team member draw conclusions about what happened.

Encourage them to think about the situation again, using the information that you've collected so far. Then ask questions like these:

  • How could this have been a more positive experience for everyone involved?
  • If you were faced with the same situation again, what would you do differently?
  • What skills do you need to develop, so that you can handle this type of situation better?

Step 5: Action

You should now have some possible actions that your team member can take to deal with similar situations more effectively in the future.

In this last stage, you need to come up with a plan so that they can make these changes.

Once you've identified the areas they'll work on, get them to commit to taking action, and agree a date on which you will both review progress.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

What is purpose of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle?

The reflective cycle is a way to better learn from experience. It can be used to help people learn from mistakes, to make sense of situations, and analyse and refelct on their reactions to different situations.

What are the six stages of reflection?

The stages of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle are the following: descrition, feelings, evaluation, conclusion, and action. In the original model Gibbs included a sixth stage, analysis, which we've included in the evaluation stage.

What is the difference between Gibbs and Kolb's reflective cycles?

David Kolb's cycle has only four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Kolb's model is more about explaining the concept of what he calls "experiential learning" – whereas Gibbs' cycle is an attempt to provide a practical method for learning from experience.

This tool is structured as a cycle, reflecting an ongoing coaching relationship. Whether you use it this way depends on the situation and your relationship with the person being coached.

Graham Gibbs published his Reflective Cycle in 1988. There are five stages in the cycle:

  • Description.
  • Evaluation.
  • Conclusions.

You can use it to help team members think about how they deal with situations, so that they can understand what they did wel and where they need to improve.

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Gibbs Reflective Cycle

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is one of the most well known cyclical models used in professional reflective practice . 

It guides practitioners through an experience in six stages: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion, and action plan. 

Gibbs Reflective Cycle was originally developed for use in higher education as a way for teachers and learners to link theoretical learning to experiential practice to reinforce the knowledge they have acquired through the use of real-world examples. It has numerous applications, but it is predominantly used in the fields of teaching and health and social care. As Gibbs’ argues:

It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations which enable new situations to be tackled effectively….It is not enough just to do, and neither is it enough just to think. Nor is it enough simply to do and think. Learning from experience must involve links between the doing and the thinking.

In this article, we will be discussing this cycle, its pros and cons, along with a worked example of its use in practice and some alternatives to the Gibbs Reflective Cycle.

Table of Contents

About Graham Gibbs

The reputation for excellent teaching at Oxford Brookes University is in large part due to the work done by Professor Graham Gibbs. He was Head of the Center for Staff and Learning Development and later Director of the Oxford Learning Institute at Oxford University, where he helped many students develop strong fundamentals that would help them to succeed beyond academia.

Graham’s career has been dedicated to improving university teaching and student learning. He founded the International Consortium for Educational Development in Higher Education and the Improving Student Learning Symposium while also receiving Honorary Doctorates from Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Utrecht.

He retired in 2007 after a long and distinguished career.

Gibbs’ Model Of Reflection

The purpose of Gibbs’ Model of Reflection is to provide a structured approach to self-reflection or ‘structured debriefings’ as Gibbs himself describes them. He argues that problems relating to discussions following an experience include:

– they often lurch from superficial descriptions of what happened to premature conclusions about what to do next, without adequate reflection or analysis; – if the experience has been especially powerful then discussion may never get further than a description of what happened or of the feelings associated with the experience; – if description and feelings are not dealt with adequately, learners may return to these at a later stage when they should be considering implications and action plans.

These issues may be avoided if a structured approach is used because there is less likelihood of deviation that could inhibit the learning experience. Gibbs proposed the following cyclical process for reflective practice:

Gibbs Reflective Cycle

Stage 1: Description

The first stage involves making a factual account of what happened during the experience. This should be an objective description and we should try to avoid recording thoughts and feelings or performing analysis as this will come later. Some things to consider at this stage include:

  • When and where did the experience happen?
  • Is there any relevant background information that influenced the experience?
  • Who was present?
  • What happened?
  • What did each person do?

Stage 2: Feelings

In stage 2, we should record the feelings and emotions of ourselves and others. Again, we should not try to carry out any analysis yet, simply make a truthful account of how we felt at each stage of the experience. Questions to consider include:

  • How did I feel prior to the experience?
  • How did I feel during the experience?
  • How did I feel after the experience?
  • What were the feelings of other people that were involved?

Stage 3: Evaluation

Here, we make value judgments about the positive and negative aspects of the experience. Our evaluations should be as objective as possible. Questions to ask include:

  • What went well?
  • What did not go well?
  • What was positive/negative about the experience?
  • Were my contributions positive/negative?
  • Were the contributions of others positive/negative?

Stage 4: Analysis

In the fourth stage, we critically analyse the experience using the information that we collated in the previous section along with knowledge from other sources, such as theory, research, standards and the perspectives of others. By bringing all the information together, we can begin to make sense of the experience. Questions you may ask include:

  • Why was the experience positive?
  • Why was the experience negative?
  • Did the perspectives of others align with your own? If not, why not?
  • Which literature is relevant to the experience?
  • How did the experience align with the theory?
  • How did the experience align with standards?

Stage 5: Conclusions

Gibbs splits this stage into general conclusions and specific conclusions.

General conclusions are broad deductions that can be derived from the experience. Specific conclusions relate to our own personal experiences, practice and development. Examples of questions that may be asked at this stage include:

  • What have I learned from this experience?
  • How might I have performed better?
  • What would I do differently if a similar situation occurred in the future?
  • What learning and development opportunities may strengthen this area of my practice?

Stage 6: Action Plan

Finally, we develop an action plan for addressing areas of our practice that we may wish to develop, based on our findings from the reflective process. This could be undergoing further training, gaining additional knowledge, practising a procedure or another similar activity. The action plan should contain objectives and timescales (SMART targets are useful here). Pertinent questions include:

  • What will I do differently next time?
  • What training will I undergo?
  • How will I gain further knowledge or experience?

Gibbs advocated for his reflective cycle to be used in situations practitioners find themselves in often. This is primarily because practitioners who reflect on the same set of experiences are more likely to build up a bank of knowledge and expertise pertaining to that situation. 

However, the stages of the Gibbs model can be used in single, isolated experiences. This means that elements of the reflective cycle, the action plan aspect, for example, will likely be more generalised and ultimately less practical when considering the applications of the reflective cycle process. 

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

As with all reflective practices, there are advantages and disadvantages of using Gibbs’ reflective cycle. 

These advantages and disadvantages are somewhat subjective, as not every method of reflective practice works for all practitioners in every situation. 

  • Gibbs’ reflective cycle underpins many other models of reflective practice
  • It provides a structured approach to experiential learning
  • It is a relatively simple model that is a good introduction for individuals that are new to self-reflection


  • It was developed as a generalised approach to reflective practice within a teaching setting and so does not focus on specialised practice, such as nursing or social care

Alternatives To Gibbs Reflective Cycle

Kolb’s (1984) model is a more simplified model based on a set of theories around how people learn – in fact, Gibbs’ model was based on Kolb’s research. It revolves around four key stages: Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation.  

Schon’s model of reflection builds on the idea that reflection can be performed both after an experience (reflection-on-action) as well as during an experience (reflection-in-action).

There are also models of reflection that are designed to be used by specific vocations – for example, Johns model and Atkins & Murphy’s model were developed for the nursing profession.

A list of other models of reflective practice can be found here.

An Example Of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

Now that we have established the stages of Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, we’ll now walk through an example. Following is a self-reflection from a care worker.

Description – Stage One

I was working with two individuals with learning disabilities in a supported living environment. Each of the individuals was supposed to be receiving one-on-one support but due to staff absences, I was supporting them both. We all had an enjoyable day but when I came to administer one of the individual’s medication (1mg Risperidone) at 6PM, I realised that I’d forgotten to give him his morning dose earlier in the day.

I called the pharmacy for advice. They advised that I should continue with the evening medication as usual and to call NHS 111 if the individual experienced any side effects or changes in behaviour. I informed the client of what had happened and apologised as well as wrote up the appropriate medication administration error form, made a record on the MAR sheet and informed my manager.

My manager thanked me for letting her know and said not to worry about it too much as it can happen from time to time. She also recommended that I reflect upon the experience when I had time.

Feelings – Stage Two

When I first came onto shift I was feeling a little nervous about working on my own with two clients and a bit overwhelmed by all the information that I was being given during the handover. As I’d only worked with the clients a few times, when the previous shift worker left I felt my priority was to get to know them and make them feel at ease with me. It was during this time that I should have administered the medication but completely forgot.

When I realised my mistake in the evening I felt instant dread and was worried about my error causing harm to the individual as well as getting into trouble with my manager and organisation. I also felt guilty and disappointed in myself. After a few moments, I regained my composure and followed company protocols by calling for advice from a medical professional.

When the pharmacy told me that the missed medication shouldn’t affect the individual’s health very much, I felt relieved but still felt a little scared that my employer would be angry or disappointed. However, I did feel better about it once I had spoken to my manager.

Evaluation – Stage Three

The thing that did not go well in this experience was that I forgot to administer an individual’s medication. However, there were also positive elements such as knowing what to do when a medication error occurs and owning up to the mistake. I fulfilled my duty of care by seeking immediate support from a medical professional and my duty of candour by apologising to the individual and being transparent in my explanation of what had happened.

Analysis – Stage Four 

Although the missed medication was not a major issue on this occasion, I work with individuals that could have much more serious consequences if they miss a dose of their medication – for example, individuals that have epilepsy and heart conditions.

In addition, being overloaded with information about two different clients, it was perhaps inevitable that something would be forgotten.

Conclusions – Stage Five 

Through this experience, I have learned that I can keep a level head in unexpected situations and that I have a thorough understanding of my responsibilities as a care worker and the standards that I must meet as well as my employer’s policies and procedures.

However, I think that I need to have a system in place to remember medication administration because it is so important to my role – although other aspects of my job role are important, medication administration can quite literally be life-or-death.

Action Plan – Stage Six

Going forward, I want to ensure that I do not forget to administer medication to my clients. I will do this by ensuring that I check the medication schedules for all the individuals that I am responsible for as soon as I come on to shift and setting a reminder on my phone.

  • Gibbs: Learning by Doing (1988)

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By Denis G.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

In this article:

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle can be used to help you learn from your experiences.

Your experiences have shaped who you are. However, to grow as a person experience alone isn’t enough. You need to reflect on your important experiences to form theories, rules, and principles that will make you better at your job.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a simple six-stage process that can help you reflect on your experiences in the workplace. You’ll learn what went well, as well as what could have gone better, and put together an action plan to address your weaknesses.

The model was first described by Professor Graham Gibbs in his 1998 book, Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods. The book is available as a free download here .

The model is in part inspired by Kolb’s Learning Cycle, who in turn was inspired by the work of Kurt Lewin .

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle Explained

The model is a circular six-step critical reflection process. The circular nature of the model lends itself to learning from experiences over time. The model consists of six steps:

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

The first three steps of the model focus on what happened during the experience being analyzed. The final three steps of the model focus on how you can improve your experience for future similar situations you encounter.

The model is a useful career skill to have. You can use it to evaluate your performance in the workplace, but it is also a great model to use if you are coaching a subordinate or colleague to improve their skill in a particular area.

Step 1: Description

In this stage, you simply describe what happened. To do this, you provide a factual description of what happened – don’t draw any conclusions yet (you’ll do that later). This step aims to set the scene and provide some context, so you get a better understanding of the experience.

Questions that can help include:

  • What happened?
  • When and where did it happen?
  • Why were you there?
  • What did you do?
  • How did people react?
  • What happened at the end?

Step 2: Feelings

In this step, you describe the feelings you felt during the experience. You shouldn’t try to judge or evaluate your feelings, simply state what they were.

  • How did you feel before, during, and after the experience?
  • What do you think others felt during the experience?
  • How do you feel about the experience now?
  • How do you think others feel about the experience now?

Step 3: Evaluation

In this step, we objectively evaluate the experience. Here we are trying to determine what went well and what didn’t go so well. It is essential to be as honest as possible to get the most out of this process.

Questions that can help here include:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • Was the situation resolved afterward? Why or why not?
  • What positive or negative did you contribute?
  • What positive or negative did others provide?

Step 4: Analysis

In this step, you describe what you think might have helped or hindered the situation. The aim is to explore the options that might be available to you if you encountered a similar situation again.

This step is an excellent opportunity to conduct some research into academic models or tools might have helped you. For example, if you’ve had a presentation that didn’t go so well because it wasn’t well structured, then a tool such as Monroe’s Motivated Sequence might have helped.

Step 5: Conclusion

Now you have analyzed the different options available to you, in this step its time to focus and draw some conclusions.

Using the information you’ve collected in your analysis, ask yourself:

  • What skills/tools can help you do better next time? Can you use these skills right now or is it something that you need to develop?
  • What will you do differently next time?
  • If there were negative outcomes last time, how would you avoid those?
  • What else could have been done to make this a more positive experience for everyone involved?

Step 6: Action Plan

In this step, you plan based on your conclusions, how you’ll position yourself so you can better handle a similar situation next time. It is crucial you commit and take action on your plan so that real change occurs.

If you’re coaching someone else through the Reflective Cycle, then agree on a date to speak again to review progress on the plan.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are several advantages associated with Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle.

  • The model is easy to understand and easy to use.
  • It allows you to learn over time based on your experiences.
  • Over time it gives you more balanced and accurate judgment.

Criticisms of Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle include:

  • It’s a reactive rather than proactive approach to improving your skillset.
  • It can be a superficial reflection as there is no reference to critical thinking, referencing your assumptions, or analyzing the situation from a different perspective.
  • The model doesn’t contain any deep probing questions?
  • It can be difficult for many people to open up and discuss their feelings.
  • It works best with an expert practitioner or coach guiding you through the process.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle Example

In this example, imagine you gave a presentation to your senior leadership team, and it hasn’t gone well. Retrospectively using the model, your analysis might look something like this:

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle Template

You can download a template to help you conduct a Gibbs’Reflective Cycle in PDF format here .

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle provides a six-step circular process that you can use to help you learn through practice.

The first half of the model helps you collate what happened during your previous experience, while the second half helps you understand the improvement options available and take action, so you improve your performance in any similar situations you encounter in the future.

Cite this article

Minute Tools Content Team, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, Minute Tools, May, 2019

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Originally hailing from Dublin, Denis has always been interested in all things business and started EPM in 2009. Before EPM, Denis held a leadership position at Nokia, owned a sports statistics business, and was a member of the PMI's (Project Management Institute’s) Global Executive Council for two years. Denis now spends his days helping others understand complex business topics.

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Gibbs Reflective Cycle

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Feel the Benefit of Experiential Learning

The Gibbs Reflective Cycle, also known as the Gibbs Model of Reflection and Gibbs Reflection, has six stages of exploring experiences. These stages are description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion, and action plan. Now let’s explore Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, a useful tool that encourages critical thinking, in-depth learning, and professional development through reflection.

  • How the Gibbs Reflective Cycle Works
  • Examples of using the Gibbs Reflective Cycle
  • Bonus: Get a Free Gibbs Reflective Cycle Template
  • And much more

Purple doughnut chart showing Gibbs reflective cycle healthcare statistic

The Gibbs Reflective Cycle first became recognised in 1988 when Graham Gibbs published his book ‘Learning by Doing.’ In short, Professor Gibbs’ innovative system reinforces learning from training and experience (experiential learning) through a cyclical sequence of reflective activities. Since then, this cycle has become a seminal text for healthcare professionals, staff developers, and higher education teachers. And it’s popular in business, too.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle Diagram

Click on the image below for a larger version.

Purcple cycle infographic showing the 6 part Gibbs Reflective Cycle

All in all, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle leads the individual through six stages of exploring an experience. These stages are:

  • Description
  • Conclusions
  • Action plan

Reflective methods like this follow a set process and use the resulting thoughts and feelings to create generalisations. As a result, these learnings enable you to tackle new situations.

How Does the Cycle Work?

Quote on reflection from Margaret J. Wheatley next to stressed woman graphic

Gibbs’ reflective method systematises reflections and isolates feelings. Furthermore, the different stages create a structure that helps slow the thought processes, so people reach considered conclusions.

Gibbs created his model as “structured debriefing” to support the process of experiential learning . Moreover, he designed it as a continuous cycle of improvement for a repeated experience. But it can also be used to reflect on standalone instances.

Now one thing he did differently from other reflection systems was to acknowledge the importance of feelings in reflection. He also put greater emphasis on evaluation . Basically, this is deciding what went well in the experience and what didn’t.

Examples of the Reflective Model in Practice

1. education:.

Sarah, a teacher, faced difficulty in managing a disruptive student in her classroom. Fortunately, in applying the Gibbs Reflective Cycle, she began by detailing the situation and her initial response. As she reflected on her feelings, she recognised frustration and stress. Moving on to the analysis stage, Sarah identified a need for better classroom management strategies. Consequently, she concluded that implementing consistent discipline techniques could enhance the learning environment . As a result, she devised a plan to incorporate new classroom management methods, showcasing how the Gibbs Reflective Cycle can lead to effective teaching practices.

2. Business:

Mark, a project manager, encountered challenges in leading a team to meet tight deadlines. Despite the difficulties, by applying the Gibbs Reflective Cycle, he started by outlining the situation and his initial thoughts. Reflecting on his emotions, Mark acknowledged stress and pressure. Transitioning to the analysis stage, he identified a lack of delegation and efficient task distribution. Consequently, he concluded that better delegation could improve team efficiency. Developing on this insight, he devised a plan to assign tasks based on team members’ strengths. This example illustrates how the Gibbs Reflective Cycle can enhance leadership skills and project management effectiveness in the business realm.

3. Nursing:

In a challenging encounter with a patient, Nurse Emily turned to the Gibbs Reflective Cycle. Initially, she detailed the situation and her immediate reactions. Reflecting on her emotions, she pinpointed negative feelings that surfaced. Transitioning to analysis, Emily recognised a need to enhance her communication skills. Concluding that improved communication could yield more positive outcomes, she crafted a personal development plan. This instance illustrates the transformative power of deep reflection in nursing practice.

These examples demonstrate the ability of the Gibbs Reflective Cycle to promote learning and introspection in various fields, fostering personal and professional development.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle in Detail

Not convinced? Well, here’s a more in-depth example of a freelance journalist using Gibbs’ Cycle to reflect on a stressful assignment and what they learned.

#1. Description: What happened?

Businessman writing at his desk with colourful theme

First, set the scene:

  • What happened?
  • When it took place
  • Who was present?
  • What they did
  • And the outcome

A Description Stage Example of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

“I was asked to write a feature for a magazine, and given a list of PR people to request material from. It was my first feature for this editor, and I wanted to do well. They insisted I wait for the submissions until a few days before my deadline, as that was the date published in the features list. Not everyone responded, and as the deadline approached, the submissions were slow to arrive, with people away on summer holidays. I had enough material to write the piece, except for a key section that I had agreed with one contact I would earmark their copy for. And that was where it got fraught.

“The day my article was due, my contact’s client had just returned from holiday but hadn’t approved their copy, leaving me with a hole and nothing to fill it. My editor was chasing, and I had to request an extension. I had allowed enough time to write the piece, but not factored in for a last-minute hiccup. Mercifully, at noon on the deadline day, something else arrived that I could use for the remaining section, so I was only a day late. My editor was happy because the got the piece they wanted, and the article looked great when it was published. The person who had caused the delay wrote the editor a charming note apologising, so it was a win-win.”

#2. Feelings: What were you thinking and feeling at the time?

Woman thinking on her feelings at a oint in time with clock and emoji symbols

After that, review your thoughts about the experience:

  • How did I feel at the time?
  • What did I think?
  • How did my emotions, beliefs and values affect my feelings?
  • What do I think other people were feeling?
  • And how did I feel about the experience afterwards?

A Feeling Stage Example of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

“I was anxious as the deadline approached. And I would have preferred people to send their submissions a week earlier, so I could chase the late ones, but the editor insisted otherwise, and I had no choice. I was feeling foolish for exposing myself like this by agreeing to wait for the missing copy, but there wasn’t anything to put in its place.”

#3. Evaluation: What was good and bad about the experience?

Male manager thinking on thoughts with vibrant colours

Now how did it go? Focus on both the positive and negative, even if it is mainly one or the other.

  • What was good and what was bad about the experience?
  • Which bits went well? What didn’t?
  • Were my contributions positive or negative?
  • If it was difficult for me, did I feel the situation was resolved afterwards, so I benefited?

An Evaluation Stage Example of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

“It was bad to feel exposed and hoping some material would arrive miraculously at the last minute, but it also felt good communicating with people to resolve it and, when I was feeling stressed, stepping back and calming myself. I can look back on the experience now and see it in terms of the soft skills it made me use.”

#4. Analysis: What sense can you make of the situation?

Lighbulb above bald manager's head thinking about Gibbs Reflective Cycle

So this involves making sense of what happened and developing an understanding:

  • Why did things go well, or badly?
  • Could I have acted differently?
  • And what might have helped or improved things?

An Analysis Stage Example of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

“By setting it out like this in this reflection, particularly my feelings, I can make perfect sense of it now and see how I got into that uncomfortable position. I was extremely aware of Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability; Steven R. Covey’s 6th Habit of Highly Effective People, Co-Creation; and in terms of resilience, holding onto the idea that whatever happened, I would be okay. It wasn’t what was happening that mattered, but how I resolved it.”

#5. Conclusion: What else could you have done?

Male manager putting pieces together for a conclusion

Gibb’s reflective cycle proposed two possible conclusions from the Cycle: a personal one for the learner and a general one for the organisation doing the training :

  • What have I/we learnt?
  • From there, what can I /we do better now?
  • Could/should I/we have done anything differently?
  • What skills do I/we need to handle this better in future?

A Conclusion Stage Example of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

“I could have said to my editor I wanted people to send me their submissions a week earlier. Or, I could have ignored him and just given them the earlier date. I didn’t do either, I wanted to do well. I could have also approached more people beside the ones I was specifically asked to contact. Most of all, I could also have avoided pinning my hopes on a particular person coming through with the important section.”

#6. Action Plan: What will you do next time?

An open book with action plan

Lastly, this summarises everything you need to know and do to remember the learning, and improve for next time:

  • Where/how can I use my new knowledge and experience?
  • How will I adapt my actions and improve my skills?
  • If the same thing happens again, what will I do differently?

An Action Plan Stage Example of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

“Learn from this experience and negotiate with the editor about the submission deadline. Or just ask for the material sooner, ahead of the deadline given, and approach other people beside the ones on the core list. And take note of my conclusion about pinning hopes on specific people. As Steven R. Covey would say about his Habit #7 of Highly Effective People, Sharpen the Saw – do it again, and be better.”

BONUS: The Gibbs Reflective Cycle Template

Use Gibbs’ simple, yet effective template of 6 questions to reflect on what you did well and what you could do better.

Access: Click on the image below to open the template in a high-resolution PDF that you can print.

Links to Gibbs reflective cycle PDF template with 6 boxes to be completed

More Facts, and Compelling Details to Ignite Your Curiosity…

#1) pros and cons of gibbs reflective cycle, advantages:.

  • Firstly, the Gibbs model of reflection is easy to understand and easy to use.
  • Also, it allows you to learn over time, based on your experiences.
  • And it helps you develop more balanced and accurate judgement.

Possible Disadvantages:

  • Depending on the individual, reflections with the Gibbs Cycle may be superficial, not deep. This will affect the potential for personal or collective development.
  • The process doesn’t take into account any assumptions people might hold about the experience. Nor does it consider the need to look at different perspectives.
  • Lastly, reflection doesn’t necessarily lead to people coming out with changed assumptions, perspectives or practices. As with other reflective processes like client-centred therapy, the individual has to commit to making change happen, or they won’t see the benefit.

Keep reading for other models you can use besides Gibbs.

#2) How Does Reflection Help?

Basically, reflection allows people to make sense of an experience in relation to themselves and others, and the background circumstances. The process enables them to reimagine the experience, for future personal or business benefit. You can see why the Gibbs Reflective Cycle is so important.

Work from home businesswoman at desk reflectig with a mirror

6 Ways Reflection Can Help:

  • First of all, it allows you to improve your working practice to gain better outcomes in the future.
  • Improves your performance and your skills.
  • Increases self-awareness of your abilities and attributes.
  • Evaluate the quality and success of your action plans.
  • Apply theoretical knowledge of behaviour and soft skills, like listening to real experiences, and expanding your understanding.
  • And lastly, develop and expand your employability.

#3) Who is Graham Gibbs?

Graham Gibbs has had a distinguished career in the field of learning development. Also, his book ‘Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods’ remains the definitive manual on reflective learning.

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#4) What is Reflective Learning?

In short, reflective learning involves the learner stepping back from their learning experiences and applying critical thinking skills to reach conclusions. It’s an intentional process. After all, success requires commitment.

#5) What are Reflective Models?

A reflective model is a structured process used to guide personal and situational analysis and improvement. Furthermore, reflection emphasises awareness of our knowledge, past experiences, and beliefs.

Why Do We Need Reflective Methods?

Reflecting on a learning experience helps improve our performance while it’s happening. Additionally, it helps us do better in the future. But without this reflection, it’s hard to improve. And if you don’t reflect on the experience, chances are you’ll forget and lose the possible learnings.

Here are a few reflective models besides Gibbs:

  • Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle : In essence, this reflection model is based on four stages – Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualisation, and Active Experimentation.
  • Johns’ Model of Reflection: This reflective model c onsists of five cue questions to guide reflection – Description, Reflection, Influencing Factors, Evaluation, and Learning.
  • Schön’s Reflective Practitioner Model: Not that f ocuses on reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action in professional practice.
  • Rolfe’s Framework for Reflexive Practice: Now this model i nvolves three stages – What? So What? Now What? Although it might appear less complex than the Gibbs Reflective Cycle, some believe it offers greater flexibility and adaptability. 
  • Driscoll’s Model of Reflection: In its simplicity, it c omprises three questions – What? So What? Now What?
  • Atkins and Murphy’s Model of Reflection : Now this f eatures five prompts for reflection – Description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, and conclusion.

#6) Get the Definitive Word From the Man Himself

In general, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle and reflection are powerful tools. Furthermore, when used effectively, the process can facilitate significant personal and professional growth. But at the outset, it can feel challenging for leaders and managers to take on board and incorporate it into their training.

The most accessible book on all this is Graham Gibbs’ Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods . Sadly, it isn’t available in hard copy on Amazon. However, you and your colleagues can download the 2013 online edition as a free eBook from Oxford Brookes University. Have it on your phones!

‘Learning by Doing’ is written to be used as a resource, rather than a book to read right through. It starts by explaining the underlying concepts and then explores practical ideas for teaching methods and designing courses. Additionally, there’s plenty of follow-up information to help you apply the ideas. You’ll find all the details you could possibly want. And it’s an inaccessible language.

There are also various case studies of applications of experiential learning methods, including self-directed learning in office practice. But reading the book on its own isn’t enough. Note that to really learn about experiential methods, you need to be ‘Learning by Doing’! Use these methods and experience them. Follow Gibbs’ Cycle. Reflect on their use and then experiment again.

#7) Reflection #101

Now there’s a lot here to take in. But if you’d prefer to start with something simpler and then work up to using Gibbs’ book. That’s fine. The 5 R’s might help. So let’s take a look.

The 5 R’s of Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

This is a framework identified by the researchers Bain et al in 2002, to help people make sense of experience. And the elements ‘R’:

  • Reporting: First, recall what happened. What did the situation involve?
  • Responding: Now describe your observations, feelings, and questions.
  • Reasoning: What are the significant factors underlying the situation? How do they relate to what happened and what the situation involved?
  • Relating: Explain your connection with the situation. What are your relevant experience, skills, knowledge and understanding?
  • Reconstructing: Lastly, describe your deeper understanding of the situation after all this, based on this thought process.

Parting Thoughts to Ponder

John Dewey -father of reflective thinking quote next to yellow lighbulb

After reading this, if you’re a boss, could Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle help you develop your team ? Or are you an employee in a business where there’s no Continuous Professional Development? Don’t let that trigger ‘FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out!). All in all, Gibbs’ insights can help you reflect on your skills development, and plan your next move.

And last, of all, don’t forget the final tip in the 6 Ways just now. You can also use Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle to boost your employability. Remember that this stuff can help you get a better job. So reflect on that!

Updated on: March 12, 2024

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Reflection as part of continuous professional development for public health professionals: a literature review

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Nishamali Jayatilleke, Anne Mackie, Reflection as part of continuous professional development for public health professionals: a literature review, Journal of Public Health , Volume 35, Issue 2, June 2013, Pages 308–312,

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For many years, reflection has been considered good practice in medical education. In public health (PH), while no formal training or teaching of reflection takes place, it is expected as part of continuous professional development. This paper aims to identify reflective models useful for PH and to review published literature on the role of reflection in PH. The paper also aims to investigate the reported contribution, if any, of reflection by PH workers as part of their professional practice.

A review of the literature was carried out in order to identify reflective experience, either directly related to PH or in health education. Free text searches were conducted for English language papers on electronic bibliographic databases in September 2011. Thirteen papers met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed.

There is limited but growing evidence to suggest reflection improves practice in disciplines allied to PH. No specific models are currently recommended or widely used in PH.

Health education literature has reflective models which could be applied to PH practice.

The practice of public health (PH) is a science as well as an art. 1 PH professionals may work across all or some of its main domains—health improvement, health protection and health services. The Faculty of Public Health provides direction and guidance to enable the development of professionals and establish competencies that specify behaviour, skills and attitudes. The Faculty encourages professionals to reflect as part of essential practice. 2 Many different disciplines contribute to the PH workforce, but all are expected to keep themselves up to date through continuing professional development (CPD). However, the mere experience of carrying out some developmental activity may not be sufficient to enable future improvements and thus many medical specialities encourage their practitioners to reflect on their experiences. 3

Reflection can contribute to learning. 4 Illeris 4 describes learning to consist of emotional and social dimensions as well as cognitive. In practice, the cognitive aspects are most easily measured through assessments or performance, while the emotional and social aspects may be less easily captured. Frameworks of reflection could support the development of both these dimensions. 5 Further to this, if learning is considered to take place in the form of a cycle, as shown in Fig.  1 , the role of reflection becomes apparent.


Four stages of Kolb's learning cycle 6 .

The cycle of learning comprises four elements—a concrete experience, an observation and reflection, formation of abstract concepts and testing in new situations. 6 The circular model does not mean each stage should be equally weighted in time and emphasis. 7 Kolb and Fry, in their theory, argue that the cycle can begin at any of those points. However, in its simplified form, the learning cycle will begin by carrying out a task, the person would reflect on that experience and apply the learning in a new situation. In order to apply experience to the new situation, the ability to generalize through identifying principles and their connections to actions over a range of circumstances is required. Throughout the process, learners rate themselves which is an important element for adult learners 8 and could be considered relevant for continuous professional development. In his work, Donald Schon 9 concludes that the possible objects for reflection can be as varied as the situations faced and the systems in which they occur. Reflection can be understood as the ‘ability to gain understanding of specific issues in practice through critically contextualizing, observing and analysing to generate new knowledge and insights which can enhance practice’. 10 This may mean the individual might reflect on the feeling for a situation which has led to adoption of a particular course of action, the way in which the problem has been framed and/or the role this has created for the individual in the wider institution as a result. 9 It can be seen as the process of reasoned thought which enables a critical assessment of both self as a professional and as an agent of change. 10 This latter is of particular relevance to PH professionals in their roles of influencing decision-making.

However, as a speciality on the whole, PH has focused heavily on quantitative measures for evaluation. The purpose of this paper is to describe the development of a framework for learning to reflection for individuals as well as for teams and to identify approaches to guide continuous professional development. This paper describes how this could be implemented and used in everyday work to enable professional development.

Literature search strategy

A literature search was undertaken using CINAHL, Medline and OvidSP electronic databases in September 2011. The search terms used were evidence-based practice, research evidence, medical education, qualitative research, reflective practice, reflection and evidence. Other sources included handpicking of books on evidence-based practice, reflection and research. Full texts of potentially relevant articles were obtained. Papers were identified for inclusion in the review by examination of full text articles. Data relating to characteristics of the population, intervention, outcome measures, study design and outcomes were collected.

Inclusion criteria

Papers written in English only were included. Articles pertaining to reflection in or on practice in PH or related disciplines were included. Documents published between 1970 and 2011 were included. Peer- and non-peer-reviewed publications were considered.

Exclusion criteria

Articles that included reflection as by-product rather than the main focus were excluded. Non-English language publications were excluded.

Electronic searches yielded over 100 citations. Further citations were obtained by hand searching of reference lists. More than 20 full articles were retrieved and assessed against the set inclusion criteria. Of the five papers included in this review, none were from PH, two from nursing and two from other allied health professions or other education literature. One further model was included from non-health background.

The search did not find evidence that particular frameworks were in regular use in current PH practice. The search identified educational concepts from the literature which could be applied to PH. Several approaches to reflection were found. While none of these were linked directly to PH practice, their use in medicine was referenced. The literature discussed here were selected on relevance and focused on the synthesis on framework, service-based learning and mentorship.

Burton's approach 11 was to use the core questions focused on reflection on action but with the ability to be applied in and before action. Burton's cycle of three questions comprises the questions: What? So what? Now what? These are questions which the reflector can answer during the reflective process.

Boud et al . 12 defines reflection in the learning context and focuses on the personal experience as the object of reflection—as the intellect and affects lead to new understandings and appreciations. Boud describes three main components to consider—experience, reflection and outcome. The experience can be a behaviour, ideas or feelings. The reflection will include returning to the experience, attend to feelings that it brought about and a re-evaluation of the experience. The outcome will look at new perspectives, changes to behaviour and an application of learning into practice.

The Gibbs' reflective cycle (1988) encourages a clear description of the situation, analysis of feelings, evaluation of the experience and an analysis to make sense of the experience. This would be followed by conclusions where other options are considered and reflection upon experience to examine what one would do if the situation arose again. 13 In essence, Gibbs describes a cycle of description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan. The description is questioning what happened followed by the feelings brought about through the questions—‘what were you thinking and feeling?’. The evaluation component describes what was good and not so good about the experience. The analysis should identify what sense can be made of the situation and the conclusion details of what else could have been done. The process of reflection is ended with an action plan for what could be done if the situation arose again.

Atkins and Murphy 5 through their model suggest that for reflection to have a real effect it needs to be followed by an action commitment. The authors describe a cycle of awareness, description, analysis, evaluation and learning. The reflective process begins with the awareness of uncomfortable feelings and thoughts from the action or new experience followed by a description of the situation including thoughts and feelings. This would need to include salient events and key features identified by the reflector. The reflector would need to analyse feelings and knowledge relevant to the situation—identifying knowledge, challenging assumptions, imagining and exploring alternatives.

The reflection process would also need to include evaluation and consolidating learning. Evaluate the relevance of knowledge through asking questions includes the following: ‘Does it help to explain and/or solve problems’? ‘How complete was the use of knowledge’? These steps would be followed by identifying any learning which has occurred.

After-action review is a de-brief process in practice originally developed by the US army which aims to identify how to improve, maintain strengths and focus on performance of specific objectives. The de-brief manual provides guidance for individuals and group reviews. 14 The review would answer the following four questions: What was supposed to happen? What actually happened? Why were they different? What did we (I) learn?

Main findings

There is no published evidence of the use of particular models of reflection in PH practice. The general medical education literature contains various approaches to reflection.

The evidence base to suggest learner's self-reflection skills can be improved through formal training is still lacking.

There are a variety of theories on reflection in the education literature. The implication this brings to individual PH practitioners is to consider when and how they will reflect as part of their continuous learning cycle. In addition, whether the act of reflection should be done alone or as part of a team or both will need to be established. As a discipline that has focused less on reflection in the past it is possible to draw on theories and models already existent and in use within medicine. There are a range of ways to reflect which include methods like journal writing, discussions and use of technology such as blogs. 15 There is also a range of aspects to be considered, for example, individual perspective, team dynamics and societal impacts. Ultimately, the aim of reflection would be to improve practice and learn from relevant experiences. It is obvious that this comes from being an analytical reflector and moving beyond pure description. As some of the literature suggests, it is useful to recognise emotional influence and challenge one's ideas. In broader learning terms, it is also useful to consider the relevance of prior experience.

Reflection enhances personal development by leading to self-awareness. 16 If the focus of reflection is improvement in patient care, it helps to expand and develop clinical knowledge and skills. 17–19 The process slows down activity providing time to process material of learning and link to previous ideas. 20 It should also enable more ownership of the learning taking place. 20 Reflection has been reckoned to promote optimum effectiveness and efficiency in an ever evolving and complex health-care system through practitioners auditing their own practice. 21 , 22 ‘Reflection reminds qualified practitioners that there is no end point to learning about their everyday practice’. 18

Where it exists, the practice of reflection has tended to focus on individual professionals at specific points in time and/or on specific elements of practice. 10 This, however, can form only a part of the experience as many PH actions involve many disciplines. Often action takes place across multi-sectoral teams and involves multi-phased interventions. Programme delivery is often longer term, should be population focused and policy led.

The learner involvement is a key fundamental principle of adult education. PH CPD and the reflection that forms part of it can be viewed in light of adult education as individuals need to take ownership and engage in setting their learning agenda. 23 Therefore, the mere act of reflecting supports the androgogical model as adults need to be able to establish the purpose of the activity undertaken and identify how to cope effectively with real-life situations. 24

There needs to be opportunity to reflect as individuals as well as in teams in an acute manner while carrying out the longer term projects. Reflection can be used as a tool to facilitate professionals to assess beliefs, values and approaches to practice. 25 These factors determine how individuals personally and the policies/programmes which they deliver, act as agents of change, contributing to empowerment. Adult learners are more likely to believe and instil ideas that they help create. The environment can provide many structured activities that generate the ideas, concepts or techniques if an active decision to do so is taken. The practitioner could then experience surprise, puzzlement or confusion associated with the situation. Reflecting on the phenomena that is being experienced and prior understanding which have implicated, the resulting behaviour will lead the learner to new understanding. 9

In the health promotion literature, reflection on external and internal factors is recommended. These factors, however, could be equally applied to other domains of PH as they will include policy, professional and societal influences (examples of external factors) and attitudes, skills, experiences and team dynamics (examples of internal factors). 26

The practice of self-reflection in academic achievement has been captured in disciplines that contribute to PH. A positive impact was noted through reflective journal writing over only scientific report writing for those studying biology. 27 This was evidenced through greater awareness of cognitive strategies and conceptions of learning when learners constructed more complex and related knowledge when learning from text. In studies of mathematics students, while reflection was not necessary for high grades of achievements, it supported better conceptualization of meanings of the technical definitions. 28 Practice, shaped through reflection can develop professionals, organizations and society. This is already considered important within health promotion. 25

Educational concepts and the impact of reflection are not easily measurable. 29 Therefore, its merits may be overlooked. One can argue that this approach of reflecting on an issue is too straight forward and, in practice, difficult issues may take months to reflect on. Doing so quickly might lead to a paper exercise. Explicit frameworks may not be suitable for some situations. Frameworks vary in their focus of contexts. However, they are aimed to be critical analyses of knowledge and experience to deepen understanding. Time, motivation, initial expertise and lack of peer support are recognized barriers to reflection. To add to this are organizational contexts and team dynamics—frequent problems faced by PH professionals. 10 However, a structure to guide the process of reflection on the content and the process of learning would be deemed useful. 30


With the aim of providing a broad overview of reflective approaches relevant to PH professionals, this work provides a selection and not a complete comprehensive collection of medical education literature.

What does this report add?

There are very few articles relating the use of reflection to current PH practice and furthermore on the strengths and weaknesses of different models that could be applied. This review article outlines some of the most applicable and outlines their merits and otherwise. Individuals working in PH may consider some of the approaches described here alongside their current professional development activities either as individual learners or as part of learning within teams.

At present, the strength and extent of the evidence base for the educational effects of reflection in a PH setting is limited.

However, there is evidence of an improving trend in the quality of reported studies. ‘Higher quality’ papers identify improvements in knowledge and understanding, increased self-awareness and engagement in reflection and improved opportunities through specialist training and continuous professional development.

In recognition of the time commitment involved, the benefits to the profession must be apparent. In addition, the opportunity cost of other learning and developmental activity forgone needs to be considered. Further work is needed to strengthen the evidence base for reflection, particularly, where possible, comparative studies which observe changes in knowledge and abilities directly.

Given its merits, while the quantitative evidence base is limited, what are the implications for practice? Given PH's stated desire to base practice upon evidence there is urgent need to formally assess the effectiveness of reflection in the improvement of PH practice.

We would like to thank Joanne Harcombe for her helpful comments on the draft manuscript.

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gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

  • Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

May 9, 2023

Delve into Gibbs' Reflective Cycle, a powerful tool fostering critical thinking, deep learning, and professional growth through reflection.

Main, P (2023, May 09). Gibbs' Reflective Cycle. Retrieved from

What is Gibbs' Reflective Cycle?

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle is a popular model for reflection, acting as a structured method to enable individuals to think systematically about the experiences they had during a specific situation.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a widely used and accepted model of reflection . Developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988 at Oxford Polytechnic, now Oxford Brookes University, this reflective cycle framework is widely used within various fields such as healthcare, education, and management to enhance professional and personal development . It has since become an integral part of reflective practice, allowing individuals to reflect on their experiences in a structured way.

The cycle consists of six stages which must be completed in order for the reflection to have a defined purpose. The first stage is to describe the experience. This is followed by reflecting on the feelings felt during the experience, identifying what knowledge was gained from it, analyzing any decisions made in relation to it and considering how this could have been done differently.

The final stage of the cycle is to come up with a plan for how to approach similar experiences in future.

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle encourages individuals to consider their own experiences in a more in-depth and analytical way, helping them to identify how they can improve their practice in the future.

A survey from the British Journal of Midwifery found that 63% of healthcare professionals regularly used Gibbs' Reflective Cycle as a tool for reflection.

"Reflection is a critical component of professional nursing practice and a strategy for learning through practice. This integrative review synthesizes the literature on nursing students’ reflection on their clinical experiences." – Beverly J. Bowers, RN, PhD

The Six Stages of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

The Gibbs reflective cycle consists of six distinct stages: Description, Feelings, Evaluation, Analysis, Conclusion, and Action Plan. Each stage prompts the individual to examine their experiences through questions designed to incite deep and critical reflection. For instance, in the 'Description' stage, one might ask: "What happened?". This questioning method encourages a thorough understanding of both the event and the individual's responses to it.

To illustrate, let's consider a student nurse reflecting on an interaction with a patient. In the 'Description' stage, the student might describe the patient's condition, their communication with the patient, and the outcome of their interaction. Following this, they would move on to the 'Feelings' stage, where they might express how they felt during the interaction, perhaps feeling confident, anxious, or uncertain.

The 'Evaluation' stage would involve the student reflecting on their interaction with the patient, considering how they could have done things differently and what went well. In the 'Analysis' stage, the student might consider the wider implications of their actions and how this impacted on the patient's experience.

Finally, in the 'Conclusion' stage, the student would summarise their reflections by noting what they have learned from the experience. They would then set an 'Action Plan' for how they will apply this newfound knowledge in their future practice.

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle is a useful tool for nurses to utilize in order to reflect on their past experiences and improve their practice. By using reflective questions , nurses can actively engage in reflection and identify areas for improvement. 

  • Description : Start by objectively recounting the experience. Helpful questions to ask include: What happened? Who was involved? When and where did this occur?
  • Feelings : Capture your emotional response to the experience. It's essential to acknowledge both positive and negative emotions, as they significantly affect our interpretation of the event.
  • Evaluation : Assess the good and bad aspects of the experience. What worked well, and what didn't? What were the positive impacts and negative consequences?
  • Analysis : Dig deeper into understanding why things unfolded as they did. This analysis stage is where you draw on relevant literature and professional knowledge to interpret the experience.
  • Conclusion : Determine what you could have done differently and what you've learned from the experience.
  • Action Plan : Develop a plan detailing what you'll do if a similar situation arises in the future.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle

Examples of the Reflective Model in Practice

The Gibbs Reflective Cycle, a model of reflection, can be a powerful tool for learning and personal development across various vocations. Here are five fictional examples:

  • Nursing : A nurse named Jane had a challenging interaction with a patient. Using the Gibbs Reflective Cycle, she first described the situation and her initial reactions. She then reflected on her feelings, identifying negative emotions that arose. During the analysis stage, she realized that her communication skills needed improvement. She concluded that better communication could have led to a more positive outcome. Finally, she developed a personal development plan to improve her communication skills, demonstrating the positive impacts of deep level reflection.
  • Teaching : A teacher, Mr. Smith, had difficulty managing his classroom . He used the Gibbs Reflective Cycle to reflect on a particularly chaotic day. He identified negative aspects of his classroom management strategy and, through critical thinking, realized that he needed to set clearer expectations for his students. He then developed a plan to implement these changes, showing how the approach to reflection can lead to actionable improvements .
  • Customer Service : Sarah, a customer service representative, received constructive feedback from a customer who was dissatisfied with the service. She used the Gibbs Reflective Cycle to reflect on the interaction, identifying her feelings of disappointment and analyzing what went wrong. She concluded that she needed to improve her problem-solving skills and developed a plan to do so.
  • Management : A manager, Tom, struggled with delegating tasks to his team. He used the Gibbs Reflective Cycle to reflect on a project that was delayed due to his reluctance to delegate. He identified his fear of losing control as a negative emotion and realized during the analysis stage that trust in his team was crucial. He then developed a plan to practice delegation in future projects.
  • Counseling : A counselor, Dr. Lee, felt that her recent sessions with a client were not productive. She used the Gibbs Reflective Cycle to reflect on these sessions . She identified feelings of frustration and, upon analysis, realized that she needed to adjust her counseling techniques to better suit her client's needs. She then developed a plan to implement these changes.

These examples illustrate how the Gibbs Reflective Cycle can facilitate learning and reflection across different vocations, leading to personal and professional growth.

An Exploration of Gibbs' Model

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle offers a structured approach to reflection, making it a helpful tool for educators and learners alike. The model encourages critical reflection , stimulating the ability to analyze experiences through questions and transform them into valuable learning opportunities.

Experiential Learning , a concept closely tied with reflection, suggests that we learn from our experiences, particularly when we engage in reflection and active experimentation . Gibbs' model bridges the gap between theory and practice, offering a framework to capture and analyze experiences in a meaningful way.

By using Gibbs' model, educators can guide students through their reflective process , helping them extract valuable lessons from their positive and negative experiences.

Gibbs reflective cycle

Application of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle in Real-World Scenarios

The flexibility and simplicity of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle make it widely applicable in various real-world scenarios, from personal situations to professional practice.

For instance, Diana Eastcott, a nursing educator, utilized Gibbs' model to facilitate her students' reflection on their clinical practice experience. The students were encouraged to reflect on their clinical experiences, analyze their reactions and feelings, and construct an action plan for future patient interactions. This process not only enhanced their professional knowledge but also fostered personal growth and emotional resilience.

In another example, Bob Farmer, a team leader in a tech company, used Gibbs' Cycle to reflect on a project that didn't meet expectations. He guided his team through the reflective process, helping them identify areas for improvement and develop strategies for better future outcomes.

These scenarios underline the versatility of Gibbs' model, demonstrating its value in both educational and professional settings.

  • ( Gibbs Reflective Cycle , University of Northampton, )
  • ( Gibbs' Reflective Cycle , Oxford Brookes University, )
  • ( Reflective Practice , San Francisco State University, )

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle for Personal and Professional Development

The use of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle can have profound effects on personal and professional development. It aids in recognizing strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement, providing an avenue for constructive feedback and self-improvement.

In the context of professional development , Gibbs' model promotes continuous learning and adaptability. By transforming bad experiences into learning opportunities, individuals can enhance their competencies and skills , preparing them for similar future situations.

Moreover, the reflective cycle promotes emotional intelligence by encouraging individuals to explore their feelings and reactions to different experiences. Acknowledging and understanding negative emotions can lead to increased resilience, better stress management, and improved interpersonal relationships.

Implementing Gibbs reflective cycle

Transforming Experiences into Learning: The Role of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle is a practical tool that transforms experiences into learning. It incorporates principles of Experiential Learning and emphasizes the importance of abstract conceptualization and active experimentation in the learning process.

In the field of education, Gibbs' model can significantly influence teaching methods. It encourages educators to incorporate reflective practices in their teaching methods, promoting a deeper understanding of course material and facilitating the application of theoretical knowledge in practical scenarios.

Moreover, the model can be used to encourage students to reflect on their experiences, both within and outside the classroom, and learn from them. This process fosters critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and personal growth, equipping students with the skills they need for lifelong learning.

Embracing Gibbs cycle in your organisation

Here's a list of guidance tips for organizations interested in embracing Gibbs' Reflective Cycle as their professional development model.

  • Understanding the Gibbs Reflective Cycle : Before implementing, ensure that everyone in the organization understands the Gibbs Reflective Cycle model. This model consists of six stages: Description, Feelings, Evaluation, Analysis, Conclusion, and Action Plan. The goal is to encourage deep level reflection on experiences to foster learning and improve future actions.
  • Promote a Culture of Reflection : Encourage everyone in the organization to incorporate reflection into their daily routine. Reflection should not be seen as an added task, but rather as an integral part of the professional development process.
  • Use Real-Life Situations : For the methods in education to be effective, use real-life situations when applying the Gibbs Reflective Cycle. This way, employees can relate to the experiences, making the reflection process more relevant and meaningful.
  • Encourage Sharing of Reflections : Create a safe space for individuals to share their reflections. This could be through team meetings, one-on-one sessions with managers, or through online platforms. Sharing allows for collective learning and may provide different perspectives on the same situation.
  • Integrate Reflective Practice in Training Programs : Use the Gibbs Reflective Cycle in training programs. After each training session, encourage participants to go through the reflective cycle. This can help them understand the training content better and apply it in their work.
  • Link Reflection to Personal Development : Connect the outcome of the reflection to personal development plans. The Action Plan stage of the cycle should feed into the individual's personal development plan, helping them identify areas of strength and areas needing improvement.
  • Provide Guidance and Support : Provide guidance and support in the early stages of implementing the Gibbs Reflective Cycle. This could include providing templates or guides, or offering training on how to use the model effectively.
  • Continuous Review and Feedback : Regularly review the use of the Gibbs Reflective Cycle in your organization and provide feedback. This will help ensure that the model is being used effectively and is helping individuals in their professional development.
  • Model Reflective Practice : Leaders and managers should model reflective practice themselves. This shows that the organization values reflective practice and can motivate employees to engage in it themselves.
  • Celebrate Success : Recognize and celebrate when reflective practice leads to positive changes or improvements. This can motivate employees to continue using the Gibbs Reflective Cycle in their professional development.

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

What is the Difference Between Kolb's and Gibbs' Reflective Cycle?

Both Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory and Gibbs' Reflective Cycle are influential learning methods used extensively in education and professional development. While they share similarities, such as promoting a cyclical learning process and fostering a deeper understanding of experiences, there are key differences.

Kolb's cycle consists of four stages: Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation. It focuses more on the transformation of direct experience into knowledge, emphasizing the role of experience in learning.

On the other hand, Gibbs' cycle, with its six stages, places a greater emphasis on emotions and their impact on learning. For example, a team leader might use Kolb's cycle to improve operational skills after a failed project, focusing on what happened and how to improve. However, using Gibbs' cycle, the same leader would also reflect on how the failure made them feel, and how those feelings might have influenced their decision-making.

Other notable Learning Methods and Cycles

Please note that each of these theories or models has been developed and refined over time, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses depending on the specific learning context or goals.

Adopting the Cycle in Education

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle is an invaluable tool for nurturing professional skills and fostering personal growth. By systematically integrating this reflective model into educational practices, institutions can significantly enhance their students' professional development.

Here are seven innovative ways educational institutions can harness the power of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle to boost skill acquisition , operational proficiency, leadership capabilities, and personal skills mastery.

  • Incorporate Reflective Practice in Curriculum: Educational institutions can incorporate Gibbs' Reflective Cycle into their curriculum, making it a regular part of learning. This can encourage students to develop professional skills by continually reflecting on their experiences and learning from them.
  • Real-World Scenarios: By using real-world situations or case studies, educational institutions can provide practical instances for students to apply the reflective cycle. This will help them understand the type of situation they might encounter in their professional life and how to handle it.
  • Promote Skill Acquisition: Gibbs' cycle can be used as a tool for skill acquisition. By reflecting on their performance in various tasks and projects, students can identify their strengths and areas that need improvement. This can aid in the development of operational skills, leadership skills, and personal skills.
  • Professional Development Workshops: Educational institutions can organize workshops that focus on the application of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle for professional development. These workshops could provide hands-on training on how to use the cycle effectively.
  • Reflective Journals: Encourage students to keep a reflective journal. This practice can help students regularly apply Gibbs' cycle, promoting introspection , and the development of key leadership skills.
  • Mentorship Programs: Implement mentorship programs where experienced professionals guide students in applying Gibbs' Reflective Cycle. This can provide students with valuable insights into how reflective practice can enhance their professional skills.
  • Assessments Based on Reflection: Design assessments that value reflective practice. Instead of solely focusing on theoretical knowledge, consider students' ability to reflect on their experiences and learn from them. This approach can make learning more engaging and relevant to real-world situations.

In the journey of life and work, we continuously encounter new situations, face challenges, and make decisions that shape our personal and professional trajectory. It's in these moments that Gibbs' Reflective Cycle emerges as a guiding compass, providing a structured framework to analyze experiences, draw insights, and plan our future course of action.

Underlying the model is the philosophy of lifelong learning. By encouraging critical reflection, it empowers us to not just passively experience life, but to actively engage with it, to question, and to learn. It's through this reflection that we move from the realm of 'doing' to 'understanding', transforming experiences into knowledge.

Moreover, the model emphasizes the importance of an action-oriented approach. It propels us to use our reflections to plan future actions, promoting adaptability and growth. Whether you're an educator using the model to enhance your teaching methods , a student exploring the depths of your learning process, or a professional striving for excellence in your field, Gibbs' Reflective Cycle can be a powerful tool.

In an ever-changing world, where the pace of change is accelerating, the ability to learn, adapt, and evolve is paramount. Reflective practices, guided by models such as Gibbs', provide us with the skills and mindset to navigate this change effectively. They empower us to learn from our past, be it positive experiences or negative experiences, and use these lessons to shape our future.

From fostering personal growth and emotional resilience to enhancing professional practice and shaping future outcomes , the benefits of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle are manifold. As we continue our journey of growth and learning, this model serves as a beacon, illuminating our path and guiding us towards a future of continuous learning and development.

  • Reflection in Learning and Professional Development
  • The Reflective Practitioner
  • Reflective Practice: The Teacher in the Mirror
  • The Impact of Reflective Practice on Teaching Effectiveness
  • Reflective Practice: A Guide for Nurses and Midwives
  • Reflective practice in nursing
  • Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods
  • Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

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Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

What is the gibbs' reflective cycle.

The Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a Tool that helps professionals Grow and Learn from their past Experiences .

To do this, it proposes to analyze the Situations in which someone wants to Improve.

  • Drawing Conclusions that allow us to do things better in the future.

It consists of  6 Repetitive Steps (a cycle):

  • Description .
  • Evaluation .
  • Conclusion .
  • Action Plan .

This cycle must be repeated until Obtaining the Desired Results .

The Six Steps of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

1. Description : Describe in detail the Situation in which you want to improve .

  • A Negotiation, A Decision you made, a Discussion with your employees, etc.

2. Feelings : Reflect on How you Felt in that Situation, How you Coped with it.

  • Did you feel Insecure? Did you feel Determined? Did you Hesitate?

3. Evaluation : Evaluate the Experience and its Outcome , Objectively.

  • What Consequences did it have, What worked, What did not, etc.

4. Analysis : Analyze the Reasons that explain the Result of this Situation.

  • Why something worked or didn’t work. Why you Made that Decision, etc.

5. Conclusion : Get the Lessons from this Analysis; How to do things better.

  • What could have been done better? What could be done in a different way?

6. Action Plan : Develop and Implement a Plan to do things better.

  • Applying the Conclusions obtained in this Cycle.

Repeat the Cycle until Reaching the Desired Results .

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle Template

Now, before sharing some examples , we want to explain one important thing:

  • How to use this Cycle .

We know that it can get a bit Confusing (Feelings, Action Plan, etc).

That is why we’ll offer you a Guideline that you can Follow .

  • It can be used for your Personal Analysis or, in Coaching Situations.

How to use the Gibbs Reflective Cycle

Description : Details are important, as is the Context of any Situation.

  • The Place and People Involved.
  • What Interactions happened.

Feelings : They Can give us a Clue as to what we need to Improve .

  • If we feel Insecure, it is usually because we do not know the Subject well enough.
  • What made you feel Uncomfortable?
  • What made you feel Determined?

Evaluation : Here, you should not try to find Reasons , only Facts .

  • What worked, What didn’t work, and under What Circumstances.
  • The Outcome: What happened After the Situation?

Analysis : Now it is the time to find the Whys .

  • Why is the Reason something Worked? The Root Cause.
  • Potential Root causes causing you a Problem.

Conclusions : Time to “Connect the Dots” and obtain Solid Conclusions .

  • What Solid Conclusions have you Obtained?
  • What Could have been done better?

Action Plan : Now, you have to put things into Practice .

  • Set Specific, Measurable, Realistic and Time-Related Goals.
  • Use Objective Metrics.

Let’s see some examples:

Gibbs Reflective Cycle examples

Now, let’s Imagine that you have recently been Promoted to Manager .

You are very happy about it, but you do not feel very Comfortable when you face your employees .

  • Sometimes you have to impose yourself, so that what you say is done.

Also, it is something you would like to Improve on .

That is Why you decided to use Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle .

Let’s see How you use it:

Description - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example

The Situation in which you want to Improve :

  • It is You and your Employees (no matter Who).
  • You are In front of them alone or in a collective meeting.
  • You Want things to be done in a New way.
  • You Tell them how they have to do things from now on .

Feelings - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example

After thinking Carefully about it, you Discover that you Felt :

  • Anxious about Compelling People to do Something.
  • Insecure about you Authority.
  • Determined about the Need of doing the Things in a New Way.

Evaluation - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example

You then Evaluate what happens in these Situations :

  • You Compel your employees to do what you say.
  • They obey you.
  • Those who know you best Respond much better to your Commands .
  • Those who don’t know you are more Reluctant to change .

Analysis - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example

Now, you start thinking about the Whys :

  • This makes you Feel Insecure.
  • They don’t make you Feel Anxious or Insecure .
  • That and , the fact that you are New in the Position .

Conclusion - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example

You Obtain important Conclusions from this Analysis :

  • Or People that don’t know your Skills when making decisions.

This People are Reluctant to “obey” you, and make you Feel Insecure and Anxious.

  • So they will Trust you more.
  • And they will Trust your Authority more.

Action Plan - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example

Finally, you decide to Develop an Action Plan :

  • Starting with those who know you least.
  • Comparing the Previous Results with the Current ones.

You Estimate that you will need 2 months to have met with all your employees.

  • And decide if you need to repeat this Cycle again.

The Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a Tool that helps professionals Grow and Learn from their past Experiences.

Consists of 6 Repetitive Steps that must be repeated until getting the desired Results:

  • Description : Describe in detail the Situation in which you want to improve.
  • Feelings : Reflect on How you Felt in that Situation, How you Coped with it.
  • Evaluation : Evaluate the Experience and its Outcome, Objectively.
  • Analysis : Analyze the Reasons that explain the Result of this Situation.
  • Conclusion : Get the Lessons from this Analysis; How to do things better.
  • Action Plan : Develop and Implement a Plan to do things better.
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Reflective practice - tips and resources


  • Everyday reflection
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If you are not used to being reflective it can be hard to know where to start the process. Luckily there are many models which you can use to guide your reflection. Below are brief outlines of four of the most popular models arranged from easy to more advanced.

You will notice many common themes in these models and any others that you come across. Each model takes a slightly different approach but they all cover similar stages. The main difference is the number of steps included and how in-depth their creators have chosen to be. Different people will be drawn to different models depending on their own preferences.

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

  • Reflection 

The cycle shows that we will start with an experience, either something we have been through before or something completely new to us. This experience can be positive or negative and may be related to our work or something else entirely. 

Once something has been experienced we will naturally start to reflect on what happened. This will allow us to think through the experience, examine our feelings about what happened and decide on the next steps. This leads to the final element of the cycle - taking an action. What we do as a result of an experience will be different depending on our own feelings and experiences leading up to it. This action will result in another experience and the cycle will continue. 

Jasper, M. (2013). Beginning Reflective Practice. Andover: Cengage Learning.

Driscoll's What Model

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

By asking ourselves these three simple questions we can begin to analyse our experiences and learn from them. Firstly we should describe what the situation or experience was to set it in context. This gives us a clear idea of what we are dealing with. We should then reflect on the experience by asking 'so what?' - what did we learn as a result of the experience? The final stage asks us to think about the action we will take as a result of this reflection. Will we change a behavior, try something new or carry on as we are? It is important to remember that it may be that nothing changes as a result of reflection and that we feel that we are doing everything we should during an experience. This is equally valid as an outcome and you should not worry if you can't think of something to change. 

Borton, T. (1970) Reach, Touch and Teach. London: Hutchinson. Driscoll, J. (ed.) (2007) Practicing Clinical Supervision: A Reflective Approach for Healthcare Professionals. Edinburgh: Elsevier.

Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

  • Concrete experience
  • Reflective observation
  • Abstract conceptualization
  • Active experimentation 

The model argues that we start with an experience, either a repeat of something that has happened before or something completely new to us. The next stage involves us reflecting on the experience and noting anything about it which we haven't come across before. Where this has happened we start to develop new ideas a result of this new experience, for example when something unexpected has happened we try to work out why this might be. The final stage involves us applying these new ideas to different situations and so learning as a direct result of our experiences and reflections. This model is similar to one used by small children when learning basic concepts such as hot and cold. They may touch something hot, be burned and be more cautious about touching something which could potentially hurt them in the future. 

Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

Gibb's Reflective Cycle

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

  • Description
  • Action plan

As with other models, Gibb's begins with an outline of the experience being reflected on. It then encourages us to focus on our feelings about the experience, both during it an after. The next step involves evaluating the experience - what was good or bad about it from our point of view? We can then use this evaluation to analyse the situation and try to make sense of it. This analysis will result in a conclusion about what other actions (if any) we could have taken to reach a different outcome. The final stage involves building an action plan of steps which we can take the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation. 

Gibbs, G. (1998) Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit, Oxford Polytechic.

Think about ... Which model?

Think about the models outlined above. Do any of them appeal to you or have you found another model which works for you? Do you find models in general helpful or are they too restrictive?

The Unique Burial of a Child of Early Scythian Time at the Cemetery of Saryg-Bulun (Tuva)

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Pages:  379-406

In 1988, the Tuvan Archaeological Expedition (led by M. E. Kilunovskaya and V. A. Semenov) discovered a unique burial of the early Iron Age at Saryg-Bulun in Central Tuva. There are two burial mounds of the Aldy-Bel culture dated by 7th century BC. Within the barrows, which adjoined one another, forming a figure-of-eight, there were discovered 7 burials, from which a representative collection of artifacts was recovered. Burial 5 was the most unique, it was found in a coffin made of a larch trunk, with a tightly closed lid. Due to the preservative properties of larch and lack of air access, the coffin contained a well-preserved mummy of a child with an accompanying set of grave goods. The interred individual retained the skin on his face and had a leather headdress painted with red pigment and a coat, sewn from jerboa fur. The coat was belted with a leather belt with bronze ornaments and buckles. Besides that, a leather quiver with arrows with the shafts decorated with painted ornaments, fully preserved battle pick and a bow were buried in the coffin. Unexpectedly, the full-genomic analysis, showed that the individual was female. This fact opens a new aspect in the study of the social history of the Scythian society and perhaps brings us back to the myth of the Amazons, discussed by Herodotus. Of course, this discovery is unique in its preservation for the Scythian culture of Tuva and requires careful study and conservation.

Keywords: Tuva, Early Iron Age, early Scythian period, Aldy-Bel culture, barrow, burial in the coffin, mummy, full genome sequencing, aDNA

Information about authors: Marina Kilunovskaya (Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation). Candidate of Historical Sciences. Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Dvortsovaya Emb., 18, Saint Petersburg, 191186, Russian Federation E-mail: [email protected] Vladimir Semenov (Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation). Candidate of Historical Sciences. Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Dvortsovaya Emb., 18, Saint Petersburg, 191186, Russian Federation E-mail: [email protected] Varvara Busova  (Moscow, Russian Federation).  (Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation). Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  Dvortsovaya Emb., 18, Saint Petersburg, 191186, Russian Federation E-mail:  [email protected] Kharis Mustafin  (Moscow, Russian Federation). Candidate of Technical Sciences. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.  Institutsky Lane, 9, Dolgoprudny, 141701, Moscow Oblast, Russian Federation E-mail:  [email protected] Irina Alborova  (Moscow, Russian Federation). Candidate of Biological Sciences. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.  Institutsky Lane, 9, Dolgoprudny, 141701, Moscow Oblast, Russian Federation E-mail:  [email protected] Alina Matzvai  (Moscow, Russian Federation). Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.  Institutsky Lane, 9, Dolgoprudny, 141701, Moscow Oblast, Russian Federation E-mail:  [email protected]

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Savvino-storozhevsky monastery and museum.

Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery and Museum

Zvenigorod's most famous sight is the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery, which was founded in 1398 by the monk Savva from the Troitse-Sergieva Lavra, at the invitation and with the support of Prince Yury Dmitrievich of Zvenigorod. Savva was later canonised as St Sabbas (Savva) of Storozhev. The monastery late flourished under the reign of Tsar Alexis, who chose the monastery as his family church and often went on pilgrimage there and made lots of donations to it. Most of the monastery’s buildings date from this time. The monastery is heavily fortified with thick walls and six towers, the most impressive of which is the Krasny Tower which also serves as the eastern entrance. The monastery was closed in 1918 and only reopened in 1995. In 1998 Patriarch Alexius II took part in a service to return the relics of St Sabbas to the monastery. Today the monastery has the status of a stauropegic monastery, which is second in status to a lavra. In addition to being a working monastery, it also holds the Zvenigorod Historical, Architectural and Art Museum.

Belfry and Neighbouring Churches

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

Located near the main entrance is the monastery's belfry which is perhaps the calling card of the monastery due to its uniqueness. It was built in the 1650s and the St Sergius of Radonezh’s Church was opened on the middle tier in the mid-17th century, although it was originally dedicated to the Trinity. The belfry's 35-tonne Great Bladgovestny Bell fell in 1941 and was only restored and returned in 2003. Attached to the belfry is a large refectory and the Transfiguration Church, both of which were built on the orders of Tsar Alexis in the 1650s.  

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

To the left of the belfry is another, smaller, refectory which is attached to the Trinity Gate-Church, which was also constructed in the 1650s on the orders of Tsar Alexis who made it his own family church. The church is elaborately decorated with colourful trims and underneath the archway is a beautiful 19th century fresco.

Nativity of Virgin Mary Cathedral

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

The Nativity of Virgin Mary Cathedral is the oldest building in the monastery and among the oldest buildings in the Moscow Region. It was built between 1404 and 1405 during the lifetime of St Sabbas and using the funds of Prince Yury of Zvenigorod. The white-stone cathedral is a standard four-pillar design with a single golden dome. After the death of St Sabbas he was interred in the cathedral and a new altar dedicated to him was added.

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

Under the reign of Tsar Alexis the cathedral was decorated with frescoes by Stepan Ryazanets, some of which remain today. Tsar Alexis also presented the cathedral with a five-tier iconostasis, the top row of icons have been preserved.

Tsaritsa's Chambers

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

The Nativity of Virgin Mary Cathedral is located between the Tsaritsa's Chambers of the left and the Palace of Tsar Alexis on the right. The Tsaritsa's Chambers were built in the mid-17th century for the wife of Tsar Alexey - Tsaritsa Maria Ilinichna Miloskavskaya. The design of the building is influenced by the ancient Russian architectural style. Is prettier than the Tsar's chambers opposite, being red in colour with elaborately decorated window frames and entrance.

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

At present the Tsaritsa's Chambers houses the Zvenigorod Historical, Architectural and Art Museum. Among its displays is an accurate recreation of the interior of a noble lady's chambers including furniture, decorations and a decorated tiled oven, and an exhibition on the history of Zvenigorod and the monastery.

Palace of Tsar Alexis

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

The Palace of Tsar Alexis was built in the 1650s and is now one of the best surviving examples of non-religious architecture of that era. It was built especially for Tsar Alexis who often visited the monastery on religious pilgrimages. Its most striking feature is its pretty row of nine chimney spouts which resemble towers.

gibbs reflective cycle weaknesses

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