In simple terms, reflection is the conscious exploration of an experience with the intention to learn from that experience.
The learning process can be made more powerful when accompanied by a structure or framework. There are many such frameworks available, with each of them helping the individual act in a more conscious, deliberate manner.
It’s also worth pointing out that reflection is a continuous practice, with insights gleaned from one experience used to better navigate future experiences. As a result, most models of reflection are cyclical in nature.
In the rest of the article, we will take a look at some of the most popular models of reflection in use today.
Johns’ model of structured reflection was developed by reflective practices pioneer Christopher Johns for use in the healthcare industry.
The framework, which can also be used in other contexts, is most suited to the reflection and analysis of complex decision-making.
Johns suggested reflection was a two-part process:
Inward reflection – where the individual considers their thoughts and feelings, and
Outward reflection – where the individual considers the situation in terms of how they acted and whether such actions were ethical. Outward reflection also involves identifying the external factors that influenced their behavior.
Unlike similar models, the Johns interpretation suggests the reflective process is more effective when practiced with someone else – such as a teacher, supervisor, or mentor.
Kolb’s learning cycle
Kolb’s learning cycle argues learning is based on the reflection and understanding of lived experiences. With lessons learned from each situation, the individual can apply new insights to similar situations in the future and begin the process of reflection once again.
Kolb’s framework is a cyclical process consisting of four stages:
Concrete experience – participating in an experience and applying new learning.
Reflective observation – reflecting on the experience without judgment.
Abstract conceptualization – making sense of the experience. What worked, and what didn’t?
Active experimentation – planning what to do next time by setting goals and determining success criteria.
Rolfe’s framework of reflective practice
Rolfe’s framework of reflective practice is a model based on three simple questions:
1 – What?
What is the problem, reason, or difficulty responsible for the individual feeling bad?
What role did the individual play in the situation?
What were they trying to achieve through the actions they took?
2 – So what?
So what does the experience teach, tell, imply, or mean about the individual?
So what was going through their mind as they acted?
So what did the individual base their actions on? How could they bring new knowledge to the situation?
3 – Now what?
Now what does the individual need to do to improve or resolve their situation?
Now what are the broader issues worthy of consideration to result in successful action?
Now what might be the possible consequences of these actions?
The model was created by Professor Gary Rolfe together with colleagues Dawn Freshwater and Melanie Jasper. Like the Johns model, Rolfe’s framework was initially used as a critical reflective tool in nursing and other helping professions.
The framework itself consist of probing questions designed to guide the individual toward an increasingly broader and deeper reflection.
Models of reflection are structured frameworks for the reflective process with an emphasis on personal and situational analysis and improvement.
Johns’ model of structured reflection was developed by reflective practices pioneer Christopher Johns for use in the healthcare industry. It is also useful for reflecting on situations where complex decision-making has occurred.
Kolb’s learning cycle argues learning is based on the cyclical reflection and understanding of lived experiences, with new insights better preparing the individual for similar situations in the future. A third model of reflection, Rolfe’s framework of reflective practice, was also developed for use in the healthcare industry and is based on three simple yet probing questions.
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