The reflective model according to Gibbs is based on several stages, during which you are required to answer several questions in order to go as deep as possible with your reflections. Gibbs suggests the following stages: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusions and action plan.
The idea of this model is to systematise reflections and isolate feelings. The different stages usually help to slow down our thought processes so that we don’t jump to conclusions too quickly.
At this stage you are asked to describe the situation and not to make any judgements or draw conclusions. Try to be as detailed as possible, but remain descriptive.
What were your reactions and feelings?
Again you are not to analyse the situation, yet. You are asked to describe your emotional response to the situation you have experienced. Consider what you felt, how your body felt and what you did as well as how the others reacted to your actions.
What was good or bad about the experience?
At this stage you are considering the situation and your responses more objectively to make your first value judgements. You should also consider the experience from other people’s perspective in addition to your own. This will help you understand if the situation was bad for you only, or if it was a bad experience for others, too.
What sense can you make of the situation? What was really going on? Were different people’s experiences similar or different?
Once you have considered the situation in an evaluative way, you can start to analyse it in greater detail by considering the above questions. At this stage you should also bring in ideas from outside the experience to help you. This could mean involving colleagues and peers in your reflections, but also to consult literature and theories in order to make sense of what happened.
What can be concluded from these experiences and the analyses you have undertaken? What can be concluded about your personal situation and your way of working?
When you draw conclusions you ought to consider the general applicability as well as your specific situation. Think about what your conclusions mean for you personally, for your immediate context and then more widely for others, too.
Personal action plan:
What are you going to do differently in this type of situation next time? What steps are you going to take on the basis of what you have learnt?
In order for you to improve on your practice and learn from specific experiences you need to take this stage particularly seriously. Think about what you can do differently and how you will improve your practice. Complete a simple action plan with key pointers about what you will do and how you will decide that your practice has improved.
Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.