Skip to Main Content

Library Guides

Reflective Writing: Reflection Models


Reflection has been defined as "consciously looking at and thinking about our experiences, actions, feelings and responses and then interpreting them, in order to learn from them" (Boud et al., 1994). Reflection is therefore an important element in your studies, work and life. It may also be a subject for your assignments in the form of reflective essays, portfolios and blogs. 

Gibbs' Reflection Model

Models of reflection are frameworks that can be used to help your reflection. They provide a set of questions to ask yourself about an experience to help you to learn as you reflect. One of the most popular reflection models is Gibbs' (1988) cycle. With Gibbs' cycle you start off considering an observation or experience, including your reactions and feelings about it. You should then go on to analyse and make sense of your experience. Finally, you should conclude what you have learnt and consider if your thoughts or actions will change as a result of the reflection. 

Description: What happened?

Feelings: What are your reactions and feelings?

Evaluation: What was good and bad about the experience?

Analysis: What sense can you make of the situation? Bring in ideas from outside the experience, e.g., theory, to help you

Conclusions: What can be concluded about the experience?

Action plan: What steps are you going to take on the basis of what you have learnt? What are you going to do differently in this type of situation next time?

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

Kolb's Reflection Model

Kolb's model (1984) consists of four stages which emphasise the importance of reflection in the learning process and, furthermore, demonstrates how learning can occur from experience. For example, the cycle begins with (1) an experience. This experience is then (2) reviewed and reflected on in order to (3) form conclusions and new hypotheses (4) which can then be tested in future experiences. 

The four stages of Kolb's model are illustrated in the diagram below:


Diagram showing the steps of Kolb's model of reflective practice.


Concrete experience is something that you have done or an event that happened to you. 

Reflective observation is the stage whereby you review or reflect on what you have experienced or done. You should ask yourself how you felt, what you did, how you reacted etc. 

Abstract conceptualisation is the stage in which you should attempt to understand what your experiences taught you so that you can form new ideas about how you might approach similar situations and experiences in the future. 

Active experimentation involves trying out new ideas based on what you learned from prior experience and reflection.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). NJ: Prentice-Hall.