Monday, 13 September 2021

Two reflective models for career practice

Earlier this year, a student asked "I thought the reflection might have been supposed to be about the case, but [is] it [about] what happened in the process for us and how we will perhaps work differently in the future?" "Yes: perfect", I said. "Reflection is always about the self: us reflecting on what has happened; why that is important; and what we might need to do from this point on". 

Which made me think. We might reflect on what we have learned; what assumptions of our own were overturned; where we rushed and served the client poorly; how we are too task oriented and missed key information in our haste; where ourselves and the client were talking about two completely different things at once and we suddenly realised; where we flubbed the start of a session; where we felt our lack of connection to the client damaged the quality of the work; where we felt the client interpreted our response as being judgmental... what can be reflected on is as endless and as varied as we are ourselves. 

Reflection is a key practice tool for us to come to gain expertise in as we develop as a practitioner. Most of our reflection is focused on the client as we are in client-centred practice: but it is our own reflection, as we cannot know the mind of the client. Through developing self-knowledge, we gain a deeper understanding of others. Read more posts on reflective practice here.

This mulling turned my thoughts to reflection models. I tend to advise early career students to use the Driscoll/Borton model as it is an easy place to begin (2007). This is the 'what', 'so what' and 'now what' model of reflection (read more here). The three steps are easy to work with. 

While I have my own five step model (here), there are many other reflection models. For example, the Gibbs model, or the Johns model, may suit us better; so I thought I would give a quick run-down of each of those for anyone who is not yet familiar with either of these.

Gibbs (1988, 2013): Gibbs Reflective Cycle is an eight stage model of quite discrete stages. The eight steps are as follows: 

  1. Experience: something happens where we experience a situation. We 'sit' in the moment and allow it to happen.
  2. Description: we do not try to judge it, but to remain in the moment, and describe what is going on. Stay present.
  3. Feelings: We note what we feel. We note what our reactions are. Again, stay in the moment.
  4. Evaluation: now we can begin to consider 'good' or 'bad'. Would can consider how we would measure this. Not yet analysing, just considering HOW we might analyse it, HOW we might make sense of it. Method first.
  5. Analysis: now we have a method of measurement, we can consider WHAT happened; we can try to make sense of the situation. We can think more widely about what went on, and draw on the past and potential futures. We can explore what we think was happening, and how our own construction may have affected what happened; and how the experience of others may have affected them.
  6. General conclusions: and now, we can think about what are our high-level conclusions are. We can consider hat big picture things we see, or what practices might help us
  7. Specific conclusions: from that, we can now see where we might have some gaps, or some skills, which we can work on, or are strengths we can use
  8. Action: now we can make a personal action plan - concrete steps - to implement so that we can learn better actions for the future. 

Johns (1994, 2000, 2006, 2013), sometimes known as the BNDU model (Johns, 1994): 

  1. Looking in (aesthetic): describing the situation by considering significant thoughts and emotions
  2. Looking out (aesthetic): describing the situation surrounding our thoughts and feelings. Explaining what was significant; what we were trying to do; why did we respond as we did; what are/might be the consequences; how were others feeling (and 'how' did we know that)
    1. Personal: asking ourselves why did we feel the way we felt within the situation; and what are the factors which are influencing us. Ask ourselves why we are thinking what we are thinking; how our experience or learning have enabled us to be shaped by this situation
    2. Ethics: asking ourselves if we acted 'for the best' in this situation; in the best interests of the client; or in our own best interests
    3. Empirics: asking ourselves what knowledge informed us; what knowledge may have informed us; what past practice experience may have impacted this situation 
    4. Reflexivity: asking ourselves how this situation connects with our experience; how might we have done this better; what could be the consequences for any party in the process; how we feel about the situation; can we support ourselves or our decisions; and are we 'available' to keep working in this situation. We should consider what has been good, and what could we continue that is good.
  3. Plan: asking ourselves what could we do differently next time; what could we continue to do to help ourselves and others next time. We must get concrete here, and have specific, measurable goals that we can do, and actually deliver on to ourselves, to ensure that our reflective learning is actioned. 
I know this is a long post, but I hope it is useful. 



  • Driscoll, J. (Ed.) (2007) Practising Clinical Supervision: A Reflective Approach for Healthcare Professionals (2nd ed.). Baillière Tindall.
  • Gibbs, G. (2013). Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods (1st ed.). Oxford Brookes University. 
  • Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods (1st ed.). Oxford Polytechnic. 
  • Johns, C. (Ed.) (1994). Burford NDU Model: Caring in practice. Blackwell Science. 
  • Johns, C. (2000). Becoming a reflective practitioner: a reflective and holistic approach to clinical nursing, practice development and clinical supervision (1st ed.). John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
  • Johns. C. (Ed.) (2006). Guided Reflection: A narrative approach to advancing professional practice (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 
  • Johns, C. (2013). Becoming a reflective practitioner (4th ed.). John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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