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Importance of reflective practice in improving performance and the use of models to support the reflective practitioner


This page is designed to answer the following questions:

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For this assessment criterion, you will be required to critically evaluate a theory of reflective practice in improving individual performance. Three theories of reflective practice are provided below, along with their strengths and weaknesses, however, you will only be required to discuss one of them.


Kolb’s Learning Cycle


Kolb was one of the pioneers of reflective practice. He believed that self-reflection was the ‘glue’ that held together experience and learning. Or, to put it another way, without reflection, it is not possible to learn from experiences.

Detailed information about his theories can be found in his book Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, however, the basic premise of his model is explained here.


The main strength of Kolb’s model are that it provides a basic structure for which to continuously learn from experience, however, it does not have the depth of thinking provided by Gibb’s model (below).

Gibb’s 6 Stages to Reflective Practice


Gibbs built on the work of Kolb with his 6 stages of reflective practice, as detailed in his 1988 book Learning by Doing (free download). The six stages are:

  1. Description – what happened?
  2. Feelings – what were your feelings?
  3. Evaluation – what was good and bad about the experience?
  4. Analysis – what sense can you make of the situation?
  5. Conclusion – what can be concluded? what can be learned?
  6. Action – what steps will you take next? what will you do differently next time?#

Gibb’s model can help to make sense of and learn from experiences by way of a detailed and structured framework, however, the process may be too lengthy to go through frequently, if tome is not made available.



Schön (1991) introduced the concepts of reflection on action and reflection in action.

Reflection on action is similar to the previous two models, whereby an experience is reflected on after it has happened. Reflection in action is being able to self-reflect about an experience whilst still being in the experience and adapt as may be required (effectively ‘thinking on your feet’).


Schön’s model distinguishes between retrospective reflection and ‘in the moment’ reflection and can help professionals to be mindful and aware when they are performing health and care tasks and activities. However, there may be times when quick decisions need to be made and this model may be too slow to use in these situations.

Further information


Building on Schon’s model, Killian & Todnem (1991) introduced the concept of reflection for action to ‘guide future action (the more practical purpose)‘.

Professional practice involves having the attitudes, values and behaviours that are appropriate for a health and care worker. This includes being responsible and accountable for your actions and, as a manager, those of your team. Demonstrating that professional development is high on the agenda within your organisation helps others to be assured of and have confidence in the services that you provide.


There will be times that there are barriers to reflective practice and you will be required to ensure that they are overcome. During busy periods, there may not be time to reflect on what is happening or team members may not understand why it is important for them to reflect on their practice.



Reflective practice can help us to make sense of our experiences and learn from them by identifying areas that we can improve and making an action plan to embed these insights into our work. Group reflection can also be used to get different perspectives and insights from the same situation.

It can be difficult to embed reflective practice into our role at first because it involves time and conscious effort to perform, but, with persistence, it can become more natural and habitual.

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