useful introduction to some of the key theories and theorists of
Richard Hawkins & Harvey Woolf
Having established the need for experiential knowledge that arises out of reflection,
this handout is exploring some of the models structures and frameworks that can
facilitate the reflective process.
However, before we explore these frameworks some important distinctions are
in action and reflection on action. Reflection on action is looking
back after the event whilst reflection
in action is happening during the event. To
complicate matters there are different interpretations of reflection on action. Let’s
now explore these terms.
Reflection in action means
“To think about what one is doing whilst one is doing it; it is typically stimulated
by surprise, by something which puzzled the practitioner concerned”(Greenwood,
Reflection in action allows the practitioner to redesign what he/ she is doing whilst
he/she is doing it. This is commonly associated with experienced practitioners.
However, it is much neglected.
Reflection on action is defined as:
“The retrospective contemplation of practice undertaken in order to uncover the
knowledge used in practical situations, by analysing and interpreting the
information recalled” (Fitzgerald, 1994pp67)
We can see here that reflection
knowledge, by conducting a cognitive post mortem.
Alternatively Boyd & Fales suggest reflection on action is:
self in relation to both self and world. The outcome of this process is changed
conceptual perspectives” (Boyd & Fales, 1983pp101)
We see here that Boyd and Fales focus more on self development. Here refection
hold. Furthermore as a result we don’t see more, we see differently.
Atkins and Murphy (1994) take this idea one step further and suggest that for
action as a result.
The problems with these views of reflection on action are that they do not take
account of the importance of reflection
This is when we plan out before we act what we want to do.
So what have we learnt about reflection? It can best be seen as:
Reflection before action
Reflection after action.
Now lets see which frameworks best support these approaches.
Stage 1: Description of the event
Describe in detail the event you are reflecting on.
Include e.g. where were you; who else was there; why were you there; what were
you doing; what were other people doing; what was the context of the event; what
happened; what was your part in this; what parts did the other people play; what
was the result.
Stage 2: Feelings and Thoughts (Self awareness)
At this stage, try to recall and explore those things that were going on inside your
What you were thinking about at the time?
How did it make you feel?
How did other people make you feel?
How did you feel about the outcome of the event?
What do you think about it now?
Stage 3: Evaluation
Try to evaluate or make a judgement about what has happened. Consider what was
didn’t go so well
Stage 4: Analysis
Break the event down into its component parts so they can be explored separately.
You may need to ask more detailed questions about the answers to the last stage.
What went well?
What did you do well?
What did others do well?
What went wrong or did not turn out how it should have done?
In what way did you or others contribute to this?
Stage 5: Conclusion (Synthesis)
This differs from the evaluation stage in that now you have explored the issue from
you are likely to develop insight into you own and other people’s behaviour in terms
of how they contributed to the outcome of the event. Remember the purpose of
reflection is to learn from an experience. Without detailed analysis and honest
exploration that occurs during all the previous stages, it is unlikely that all aspects of
can be missed. During this stage you should ask yourself what you could have done
Stage 6: Action Plan
During this stage you should think yourself forward into encountering the event
again and to plan what you would do – would you act differently or would you be
likely to do the same?
Here the cycle is tentatively completed and suggests that should the event occur
again it will be the focus of another reflective cycle
Gibbs model incorporates all the core skills of reflection. Arguably it is focused on
Bortons` (1970) Framework Guiding Reflective Activities
This is the
and all questions start
with the word what
This is the level of
analysis and evaluation
when we look deeper at
what was behind the
on the previous levels
these questions to
enable us to consider
alternative courses of
action and choose what
we are going to do next.
What did I do?
What did other do?
What was I trying to
What was good or bad
about the experiences
So what is the
importance of this?
So what more do I need
to know about this?
So what have I learnt
Now what do I need to
Now what might I do?
consequences of this
Bortons model incorporates all the core skills of reflection. Arguably it is focused on
Johns Model of Structured Refection
Chris John’s (1994; 1995) model arose from his work in the Burford Nursing
Development Unit in the early 1990’s. He envisaged this model as being used within
the knowledge that we use in our practice. He adopted some earlier work by Carper
(1978) who looked at ways of knowing in nursing.
Ways of knowing Cues
art of what we
do, our own
Why did I respond as I did?
What were the consequences of that for the patient?
How was this person (people) feeling?
How did I Know this?
Personal – self
How did I feel in this situation?
Ethics – moral
How did my actions match my beliefs?
The framework uses five cue questions which are then divided into more focuses to
promote detailed reflection.
Phenomenon – describe the here and now experience
Context - what are the significant background factors to this experience?
Clarifying – what are the key processes for reflection in this experience?
What was I trying to achieve?
Why did I intervene as I did?
What were the consequences of my actions for:
o The patient / family?
o The people I work with?
How did I feel about this experience when it was happening?
How do I know how the patient felt about it?
What internal factors influenced my decision – making?
What sources of knowledge did / should have influenced my decision –
Could I have dealt with the situation better
What other choices did I have?
What would be the consequences of these choices?
How do I now feel about this experience?
How has this experience changed my ways of knowing
o Empirics – scientific
o Ethics – moral knowledge
o Personal – self awareness
o Aesthetics – the art of what we do, our own experiences
What did I do?
What does this mean?
How did I come to be like this?
What do my practices say about my assumptions,
values and beliefs?
Where did these ideas come from?
What social practices are expressed in these
What is it that causes me to maintain my theories
What views of power do they embody?
Whose interests seem to be served by my
What is it that acts to constrain my views of what
Reflective phase Emancipator
Description of practice
Phases in critical reflective inquiry Kim 1999
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Carper B (1978) Fundamental ways of knowing in nursing. Advances in Nursing
Gibbs G (1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods.
Fitzgerald M (1994): Theories of Reflection for learning
nursing, A Palmer and S Burns (eds). Blackwell Scientific, Oxford.
Kim HS (1999): Critical Reflective inquiry for Knowledge Development of nursing
Greenwood J (1993): Reflective practice a critique of the work of
Johns C (1995) Framing learning through reflection within Carper’s fundamental
Schon DA (1983): The Reflective Practitioner. Basic Books, New York.
Smyth J (1989): Developing and sustaining critical reflection in teacher education.
Journal of Teacher Education 40(2) 2-9
them, we have been unable to find them. If the authors contact us with their details,