What Are Models of Reflection? Models Of Reflection In A Nutshell

A model of reflection is a structured framework for the reflective process with an emphasis on personal and situational analysis and improvement.

Understanding models of reflection

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

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:

  1. Inward reflection – where the individual considers their thoughts and feelings, and
  2. 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:

  1. Concrete experience – participating in an experience and applying new learning.
  2. Reflective observation – reflecting on the experience without judgment. 
  3. Abstract conceptualization – making sense of the experience. What worked, and what didn’t?
  4. 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.

Examples of Models of Reflection

Johns’ Model of Structured Reflection

  • Inward Reflection: A healthcare professional reflects on their feelings and emotions after a challenging patient interaction. They explore why they felt frustrated and emotionally drained during the encounter.
  • Outward Reflection: The same healthcare professional analyzes their actions during the interaction and questions whether they responded ethically and professionally to the patient’s needs and concerns. They also consider external factors that might have influenced their behavior, such as time constraints or personal stress.

Kolb’s Learning Cycle

The Kolb reflective cycle was created by American educational theorist David Kolb. In 1984, Kolb created the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) based on the premise that learning is facilitated by direct experience. In other words, the individual learns through action. The Kolb reflective cycle is a holistic learning and development process based on the reflection of active experiences.
  • Concrete Experience: A teacher introduces a new teaching method in the classroom and observes how students respond to it.
  • Reflective Observation: The teacher reflects on the classroom experience without judgment. They notice that some students are highly engaged, while others seem disinterested.
  • Abstract Conceptualization: The teacher analyzes the effectiveness of the teaching method, identifying what worked well and what could be improved to better engage all students.
  • Active Experimentation: Based on their reflections, the teacher plans to modify the teaching method to include more interactive elements, aiming to increase student engagement.

Rolfe’s Framework of Reflective Practice:


  • A nurse reflects on a patient care situation where they made a medication error that resulted in harm to the patient.
  • They assess their role in the situation, acknowledging their mistake and the potential consequences it had on the patient.
  • They identify that their primary goal was to administer the medication accurately and safely.

So What?

  • The nurse recognizes that the experience taught them the importance of double-checking medications to prevent errors.
  • They acknowledge feeling rushed during the administration and realize that stress may have contributed to the mistake.
  • They consider seeking additional training on medication administration protocols to enhance their knowledge and skills.

Now What?

  • The nurse commits to implementing a checklist system for medication administration to reduce the risk of future errors.
  • They also plan to discuss the incident with their supervisor and participate in stress management workshops to handle high-pressure situations better.
  • The nurse recognizes the broader issue of medication safety in healthcare settings and aims to advocate for better protocols and support systems.

Key takeaways:

  • 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.

Connected Analysis Frameworks

Failure Mode And Effects Analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Business Valuation

Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.

Paired Comparison Analysis

A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.

Monte Carlo Analysis

The Monte Carlo analysis is a quantitative risk management technique. The Monte Carlo analysis was developed by nuclear scientist Stanislaw Ulam in 1940 as work progressed on the atom bomb. The analysis first considers the impact of certain risks on project management such as time or budgetary constraints. Then, a computerized mathematical output gives businesses a range of possible outcomes and their probability of occurrence.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.

CATWOE Analysis

The CATWOE analysis is a problem-solving strategy that asks businesses to look at an issue from six different perspectives. The CATWOE analysis is an in-depth and holistic approach to problem-solving because it enables businesses to consider all perspectives. This often forces management out of habitual ways of thinking that would otherwise hinder growth and profitability. Most importantly, the CATWOE analysis allows businesses to combine multiple perspectives into a single, unifying solution.

VTDF Framework

It’s possible to identify the key players that overlap with a company’s business model with a competitor analysis. This overlapping can be analyzed in terms of key customers, technologies, distribution, and financial models. When all those elements are analyzed, it is possible to map all the facets of competition for a tech business model to understand better where a business stands in the marketplace and its possible future developments.

Pareto Analysis

The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Comparable Analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

PESTEL Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

Business Analysis

Business analysis is a research discipline that helps driving change within an organization by identifying the key elements and processes that drive value. Business analysis can also be used in Identifying new business opportunities or how to take advantage of existing business opportunities to grow your business in the marketplace.

Financial Structure

In corporate finance, the financial structure is how corporations finance their assets (usually either through debt or equity). For the sake of reverse engineering businesses, we want to look at three critical elements to determine the model used to sustain its assets: cost structure, profitability, and cash flow generation.

Financial Modeling

Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.

Value Investing

Value investing is an investment philosophy that looks at companies’ fundamentals, to discover those companies whose intrinsic value is higher than what the market is currently pricing, in short value investing tries to evaluate a business by starting by its fundamentals.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

Financial Analysis

Financial accounting is a subdiscipline within accounting that helps organizations provide reporting related to three critical areas of a business: its assets and liabilities (balance sheet), its revenues and expenses (income statement), and its cash flows (cash flow statement). Together those areas can be used for internal and external purposes.

Post-Mortem Analysis

Post-mortem analyses review projects from start to finish to determine process improvements and ensure that inefficiencies are not repeated in the future. In the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), this process is referred to as “lessons learned”.

Retrospective Analysis

Retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also conducted at the end of an iteration in Agile project management. Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. They are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle.

Root Cause Analysis

In essence, a root cause analysis involves the identification of problem root causes to devise the most effective solutions. Note that the root cause is an underlying factor that sets the problem in motion or causes a particular situation such as non-conformance.

Blindspot Analysis


Break-even Analysis

A break-even analysis is commonly used to determine the point at which a new product or service will become profitable. The analysis is a financial calculation that tells the business how many products it must sell to cover its production costs.  A break-even analysis is a small business accounting process that tells the business what it needs to do to break even or recoup its initial investment. 

Decision Analysis

Stanford University Professor Ronald A. Howard first defined decision analysis as a profession in 1964. Over the ensuing decades, Howard has supervised many doctoral theses on the subject across topics including nuclear waste disposal, investment planning, hurricane seeding, and research strategy. Decision analysis (DA) is a systematic, visual, and quantitative decision-making approach where all aspects of a decision are evaluated before making an optimal choice.

DESTEP Analysis

A DESTEP analysis is a framework used by businesses to understand their external environment and the issues which may impact them. The DESTEP analysis is an extension of the popular PEST analysis created by Harvard Business School professor Francis J. Aguilar. The DESTEP analysis groups external factors into six categories: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political.

STEEP Analysis

The STEEP analysis is a tool used to map the external factors that impact an organization. STEEP stands for the five key areas on which the analysis focuses: socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political. Usually, the STEEP analysis is complementary or alternative to other methods such as SWOT or PESTEL analyses.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Other related business frameworks:

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