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What is reflective practice?

reflective practice modelReflective practice is a way of studying your own experiences to improve the way you work. It is very useful for health professionals who want to carry on learning throughout their lives.

The act of reflection is a great way to increase confidence and become a more proactive and qualified professional.

Engaging in reflective practice should help to improve the quality of care you give and close the gap between theory and practice.

The following examples of reflective practice will give you some idea of the various methods you can choose from.

Gibbs' reflective cycle

Gibb's reflective cycle is a process involving six steps:

  • Description - What happened?
  • Feelings - What did you think and feel about it?
  • Evaluation - What were the positives and negatives?
  • Analysis - What sense can you make of it?
  • Conclusion - What else could you have done?
  • Action Plan - What will you do next time?

It is a 'cycle' because the action you take in the final stage will feed back into the first stage, beginning the process again.

Johns' model for structured reflection

This is a series of questions to help you think through what has happened. You can read the questions here.

This can be used as a guide for analysing a critical incident or for general reflection on experiences. John’s model supports the need for the learner to work with a supervisor throughout the experience.

He also recommends that the student use a structured diary. He suggests the student should ‘look in on the situation’, which would include focusing on yourself and paying attention to your thoughts and emotions. He then advises to ‘look out of the situation’ and write a description of the situation around your thoughts and feelings, what you are trying to achieve, why you responded in the way you did, how others were feeling, did you act in the best way, ethical concepts etc.

Rolfe’s framework for reflective practice

Rolfe uses three simple questions to reflect on a situation: What? so what? and now what? He considers the final question as the one that can make the greatest contribution to practice.

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

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