Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle Essay
Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a powerful model that encourages people to think critically and systematically about their experiences, specific events and occurrences. This approach makes it easier for them to identify the major causal factors and adjust their actions or behaviours accordingly. This model also supports the concept of lifelong learning. The purpose of this paper is to apply Gibbs framework to an incident that happened in midwifery practice.
Description of the Incident
The selected scenario for this discussion revolves around educating pregnant women about the importance of getting vitamins and iron supplements. The background of this incident is that a specific woman gave birth to a child with extremely low weight. The baby developed breathing problems and was immediately diagnosed with infant respiratory distress syndrome. This kind of medical condition occurs when an individual has immature lungs (Hassmiller & Reinhard, 2015). Unfortunately, this newborn baby died two days after birth. A detailed inquiry into this happening revealed that the mother was not taking the recommended supplements during her pregnancy. This example was a clear indication that many women were not taking the issue of nutrition into consideration, thereby exposing themselves and their unborn babies to numerous health challenges or risks.
Application of Gibbs’ Cycle and Discussion
Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is an evidence-based self-reflection tool that can help people to examine their experiences and identify new measures for improving them and acquiring additional ideas (see Figure 1). This framework has become essential in the fields of nursing and healthcare delivery (Doolen, 2017). It encourages people to identify both the negative and positive aspects of any given eventuality and learn from it.
During the first stage, the involved individual will give a detailed description of the event without presenting any conclusions or personal insights (see Figure 1). The presented incident occurred when a newborn baby died two days later due to a respiratory condition triggered by or associated with low birth weight (Doolen, 2017). Those involved provided adequate support to the baby after birth and the mother. All caregivers, practitioners, physicians and midwives were part of the process to ensure that the child received adequate oxygen.
As part of the team involved in the midwifery process, I was moved by this event and sympathised with both the baby and the mother. I felt traumatised since such an incident could have been controlled or prevented. This becomes a learning point for all pregnant women and every person planning to have a child (Hassmiller & Reinhard, 2015). My teammates, the mother’s family members and clinicians were unhappy because of this loss. They still maintained that such an event could have been avoided.
This midwifery incident occurred because the targeted woman had not appreciated the importance of vitamin and iron supplements during pregnancy. However, all participants and clinicians provided adequate and timely support throughout the period. They ensured that high-quality services were available to the newborn baby. Personally, I provided adequate care and guidance to the mother after she gave birth. I also updated her family members and relatives continuously. All other stakeholders ensured that the baby got timely medical attention. From this event, I have learnt that the issue of nutrition is something that all people should never ignore. Childbearing women should go further to receive adequate supplements and vitamins if they are to give birth to healthy babies (Wain, 2017). This knowledge will encourage me to empower, educate and sensitise more individuals about such an event and how to prevent it.
Although this incident resulted in the death of an innocent baby, it can become a powerful model for guiding health professionals in the field of midwifery and public health experts to educate more women about the importance of vitamin and nutrient supplements during pregnancy (Howatson-Jones, 2016). In future, I will always sensitise and inform every pregnant woman about the benefits of getting the right minerals and food materials. I will have to engage in lifelong learning in an attempt to learn more about the best nutrients that are appropriate for women during pregnancy. This knowledge will make it easier for me to prevent similar events.
The recorded incident has become a powerful model for ensuring that more women give birth to babies with average weights. The best action plan entails the implementation of a program that educates women about the importance of taking vitamin supplements during birth. The campaign should be designed in such a way that it encourages all beneficiaries to inform their friends, neighbours and relatives (Howatson-Jones, 2016). Similar programs should be available to all women seeking prenatal health services. The introduction of evidence-based measures will prevent the reoccurrence of a similar incident.
The above discussion has described how Gibbs’ cycle can guide medical professionals to address most of the problems that might occur during the delivery of health services. The described incident becomes a meaningful case study for overcoming various sentinel events in midwifery. Pregnant women should receive timely guidance and take the required minerals and vitamin supplements in order to give birth to healthy babies.
Doolen, J. (2017). Meta-analysis, systematic, and integrative reviews: An overview. Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 13 (1), 28-30. Web.
Hassmiller, S. B., & Reinhard, S. C. (2015). A bold new vision for America’s health care system. Nursing Outlook, 63 (1), 41-47. Web.
Howatson-Jones, L. (2016). Reflective practice in nursing (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Inc.
Wain, A. (2017). Learning through reflection. British Journal of Midwifery, 25 (10), 662-666. Web.
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Gibbs' Reflective Cycle
One of the most famous cyclical models of reflection leading you through six stages exploring an experience: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan.
Gibbs' Reflective Cycle was developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988 to give structure to learning from experiences. It offers a framework for examining experiences, and given its cyclic nature lends itself particularly well to repeated experiences, allowing you to learn and plan from things that either went well or didn’t go well. It covers 6 stages:
- Description of the experience
- Feelings and thoughts about the experience
- Evaluation of the experience, both good and bad
- Analysis to make sense of the situation
- Conclusion about what you learned and what you could have done differently
- Action plan for how you would deal with similar situations in the future, or general changes you might find appropriate.
Below is further information on:
- The model – each stage is given a fuller description, guiding questions to ask yourself and an example of how this might look in a reflection
- Different depths of reflection – an example of reflecting more briefly using this model
This is just one model of reflection. Test it out and see how it works for you. If you find that only a few of the questions are helpful for you, focus on those. However, by thinking about each stage you are more likely to engage critically with your learning experience.
This model is a good way to work through an experience. This can be either a stand-alone experience or a situation you go through frequently, for example meetings with a team you have to collaborate with. Gibbs originally advocated its use in repeated situations, but the stages and principles apply equally well for single experiences too. If done with a stand-alone experience, the action plan may become more general and look at how you can apply your conclusions in the future.
For each of the stages of the model a number of helpful questions are outlined below. You don’t have to answer all of them but they can guide you about what sort of things make sense to include in that stage. You might have other prompts that work better for you.
Here you have a chance to describe the situation in detail. The main points to include here concern what happened. Your feelings and conclusions will come later.
- What happened?
- When and where did it happen?
- Who was present?
- What did you and the other people do?
- What was the outcome of the situation?
- Why were you there?
- What did you want to happen?
Example of 'Description'
Here you can explore any feelings or thoughts that you had during the experience and how they may have impacted the experience.
- What were you feeling during the situation?
- What were you feeling before and after the situation?
- What do you think other people were feeling about the situation?
- What do you think other people feel about the situation now?
- What were you thinking during the situation?
- What do you think about the situation now?
Example of 'Feelings'
Here you have a chance to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work in the situation. Try to be as objective and honest as possible. To get the most out of your reflection focus on both the positive and the negative aspects of the situation, even if it was primarily one or the other.
- What was good and bad about the experience?
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What did you and other people contribute to the situation (positively or negatively)?
Example of 'Evaluation'
The analysis step is where you have a chance to make sense of what happened. Up until now you have focused on details around what happened in the situation. Now you have a chance to extract meaning from it. You want to target the different aspects that went well or poorly and ask yourself why. If you are looking to include academic literature, this is the natural place to include it.
- Why did things go well?
- Why didn’t it go well?
- What sense can I make of the situation?
- What knowledge – my own or others (for example academic literature) can help me understand the situation?
Example of 'Analysis'
In this section you can make conclusions about what happened. This is where you summarise your learning and highlight what changes to your actions could improve the outcome in the future. It should be a natural response to the previous sections.
- What did I learn from this situation?
- How could this have been a more positive situation for everyone involved?
- What skills do I need to develop for me to handle a situation like this better?
- What else could I have done?
Example of a 'Conclusion'
At this step you plan for what you would do differently in a similar or related situation in the future. It can also be extremely helpful to think about how you will help yourself to act differently – such that you don’t only plan what you will do differently, but also how you will make sure it happens. Sometimes just the realisation is enough, but other times reminders might be helpful.
- If I had to do the same thing again, what would I do differently?
- How will I develop the required skills I need?
- How can I make sure that I can act differently next time?
Example of 'Action Plan'
Different depths of reflection.
Depending on the context you are doing the reflection in, you might want use different levels of details. Here is the same scenario, which was used in the example above, however it is presented much more briefly.
Gibbs G (1988). Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford.
Health and Safety Advice in a Fast Changing World
Nurses and Midwives Reflection Process
Nurses and Midwives in the UK are formally required to record 5 pieces of reflection on either continuing professional development (CPD) or practice related feedback to improve their nursing practice.
Here I start with the theory of reflection (see Framework image) and then give an example from my own nursing history of an awful incident – one I will never forget.
If you don’t want the theory (and let’s face it who does?); scroll down to my real-life example and see how I have applied the Gibbs theory model to a terrible incident which almost made me give up nursing.
Let’s Get Started
To see if Gibbs reflective cycle can help you reflect on aspects of your practice, recall a nursing situation that didn’t turn out as you expected or go to plan.
Look at the Gibbs Model flow chart above –
Stage 1 – Description (Pure Facts)
The first step is to describe what you know. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the brief facts of the situation?
- What occurred? Who was involved?
- What did you do? What did others do?
Stage 2 – Description – (Feelings)
- How were you feeling at the time?
- Were there influences affecting others actions/behaviour?
- Were there any known or perceived difficulties with the activity, timing, location, information or resources etc.?
Stage 3 – Evaluation
- What was good and bad about the experience
- How might the facts and feelings (from stage 1 and 2 above) have affected your actions/behaviour
- What other circumstances may have affected your actions or thoughts?
- How issues might influence the activity or practice related feedback?
Stage 4 – Analysis
- Why you picked this incident to reflect on?
- What sense can you make of it? Does it make sense given the preceding 3 stages?
- What is the main area of concern or focus on the future?
Stage 5 – Conclusions
- What have you discovered?
- What have you learned from this incident and circumstances?
- What questions remain?
Stage 6 – Now What? (Action)
You have analysed the incident and want to make sure you improve your practice for next time, so need to move into the action planning stage:
- What will I do differently from now on or the next time this arises?
- What resources/help will you need?
Gibbs, (1988) Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods Further Education Unit, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.
Example Reflection – Sadly, a real story!
Night duty drug round.
I am a third-year student nurse ‘in charge’ on night duty, in a London hospital, with a junior nurse to deal with 23 pretty sick people in this medical ward. A doctor asked me to give a patient (Mrs X,) 0.1 mg of Digoxin (a heart stimulant – steady, slows and strengthens the heartbeat) to relieve symptoms of severe congestive cardiac failure and difficulty breathing. I had never given such a high dose of Digoxin before and measured 4 tabs from the 0.25 mg bottle. I checked the script and the tablets with both the doctor, who nodded, and my junior nurse. We were all in agreement. I checked Mrs X’s pulse rate (standard practice for Digoxin), which was in the OK range, before giving the tablets. I kept Mrs X on hourly observations after.
At about 2 am I suddenly realised I had given 10 times the amount of Digoxin as stated on the Doctors script. In horror, I called the night sister who agreed with me. We filled in an incident form, informed the doctor and Mrs X’s relatives of what happened. Petrified, I was told to go see the hospital matron in the morning.
Mrs X did not seem to suffer any ill effects from the Digoxin during the night and went on to make a full recovery.
I had been on nights for a long stretch. It was a very busy ward with only two-night staff and I was “in charge”. Mrs X was very ill and needed constant monitoring.
I had only ever seen 0.25mgs of Digoxin tablets and did not know there was a paediatric blue table of 0.1 mg made. I was very reluctant to give such a big dose which is why I checked the four tablets of .25 with the doctor who looked at the tablets and said OK. I was nervous about the dosage being so high and took Mrs X’s pulse for much longer than the customary 15 seconds.
The doctor too was under tremendous strain, his beeper kept going off and he was rushing about all over the place. I had never met him before. He had recently come from a paediatric ward.
Nobody ever blamed me for the incident, neither did they reassure me. Mrs X went on to make a full recovery and the relatives were very understanding about the situation which was a relief. Matron was kind to me and impressed I had owned up to the error – nobody would have ever known, she said.
I felt absolutely terrified about the error though and watched Mrs X all night for signs of overdose. I didn’t sleep all the next day and returned to my next night shift to find Mrs X better.
This incident really frightened me because I had done everything right – I had checked the dosage with both the Doctor and the junior nurse. I had not known that you could get a 0.1 mg of Digoxin or it was blue. I have no idea what prompted me to think about the overdose later on that night except that I had been very reluctant to give it. The Doctor agreed I had shown him 4 white tablets who said “I thought you knew what you were doing” Which isn’t any sort of answer really. Yet he didn’t get in trouble (like me) at all for overseeing and agreeing my mistake.
I also realised how dependant patients are on the care and insights of the medical profession and the trust they put in us; I’d let Mrs X down.
I believe that this incident was down to a series of incidents linked to overwork, tiredness and misunderstandings. Plus if I’d known the Doctor better I might have had a conversation about the dose.
I was so relieved that Mrs X survived the overdose and the relatives were understanding but, if she had a serious reaction or even died, I’m not sure I could have carried on nursing.
I have learnt to be more careful with drugs and to really understand the dosage. If necessary now I will look up the drug in the reference books before I give them because it is my responsibility if I do it wrong.
I will always be ultra-careful with new drug scripts in the future and if I am nervous, then to go with my gut feeling and check and check again. Although, as I said to Matron, at the time I’d felt as if I done as much as I could have.
Also, if nurses in my team are involved in incidents where they have made a clinical mistake, I am always on hand to offer support and give them an opportunity to talk to me.
I never want another nurse to go through what I went through alone and I definitely do not want to harm anyone in my care.
Linked to NMC Code of Practice 14 – “Preserving Safety”
- British National Formulary (BNF) the drugs’ bible in the UK, available online with a subscription
Other of my real stories here:
- For a second applied reflection example, see my blog about My Infographic Mistake
- For a third reflection see Dog Walking
I have also published a workbook for nurses where you can see the model and have space to add your own private stories. Available on Amazon. Thanks for reading and good luck in your career. J
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My site may contain affiliate links. Meaning, I get a commission if you purchase through my links, at no cost to you. However, I do not recommend lightly – if I like it I want you to know about it. J
Reflective writing: Gibbs
- What is reflection? Why do it?
- What does reflection involve?
- Reflective questioning
- Reflective writing for academic assessment
- Types of reflective assignments
- Differences between discursive and reflective writing
- Sources of evidence for reflective writing assignments
- Linking theory to experience
- Reflective essays
- Portfolios and learning journals, logs and diaries
- Examples of reflective writing
- Video summary
On this page:
Gibbs' framework “emphasises the importance of being able to generalise, to transfer knowledge and insights gained from one situation to another ” Williams et al., Reflective Writing
Gibbs' Reflective Cycle
Similar to Kolb's Learning Cycle , Gibbs (1988) Reflective Cycle also provides a structure for a reflective essay.
The structure of a piece of reflective writing, whether it be an essay or learning log entry, might consist of six components or paragraphs that follow Gibb’s cycle:
Model of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle
Criticism of this framework
Don't let it put you off using Gibbs' Reflective Cycle, but do take into account that there has been some criticism about it's lack of depth. For example, the Open University suggest the following:
Despite the further breakdown, it can be argued that this model could still result in fairly superficial reflection as it doesn’t refer to critical thinking/analysis or reflection. It doesn’t take into consideration assumptions that you may hold about the experience, the need to look objectively at different perspectives, and there doesn’t seem to be an explicit suggestion that the learning will result in a change of assumptions, perspectives or practice. You could legitimately respond to the question ‘What would you do next time?’ by answering that you would do the same, but does that constitute deep level reflection?
Open University (2014) in OpenLearn
The Reflective Cycle has six distinctive stages, leading from a description of the event/experience through to conclusions and consideration for future events.
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Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle
What is the gibbs' reflective cycle.
The Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a Tool that helps professionals Grow and Learn from their past Experiences .
To do this, it proposes to analyze the Situations in which someone wants to Improve.
- Drawing Conclusions that allow us to do things better in the future.
It consists of 6 Repetitive Steps (a cycle):
- Description .
- Evaluation .
- Conclusion .
- Action Plan .
This cycle must be repeated until Obtaining the Desired Results .
The Six Steps of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle
1. Description : Describe in detail the Situation in which you want to improve .
- A Negotiation, A Decision you made, a Discussion with your employees, etc.
2. Feelings : Reflect on How you Felt in that Situation, How you Coped with it.
- Did you feel Insecure? Did you feel Determined? Did you Hesitate?
3. Evaluation : Evaluate the Experience and its Outcome , Objectively.
- What Consequences did it have, What worked, What did not, etc.
4. Analysis : Analyze the Reasons that explain the Result of this Situation.
- Why something worked or didn’t work. Why you Made that Decision, etc.
5. Conclusion : Get the Lessons from this Analysis; How to do things better.
- What could have been done better? What could be done in a different way?
6. Action Plan : Develop and Implement a Plan to do things better.
- Applying the Conclusions obtained in this Cycle.
Repeat the Cycle until Reaching the Desired Results .
Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle Template
Now, before sharing some examples , we want to explain one important thing:
- How to use this Cycle .
We know that it can get a bit Confusing (Feelings, Action Plan, etc).
That is why we’ll offer you a Guideline that you can Follow .
- It can be used for your Personal Analysis or, in Coaching Situations.
How to use the Gibbs Reflective Cycle
Description : Details are important, as is the Context of any Situation.
- The Place and People Involved.
- What Interactions happened.
Feelings : They Can give us a Clue as to what we need to Improve .
- If we feel Insecure, it is usually because we do not know the Subject well enough.
- What made you feel Uncomfortable?
- What made you feel Determined?
Evaluation : Here, you should not try to find Reasons , only Facts .
- What worked, What didn’t work, and under What Circumstances.
- The Outcome: What happened After the Situation?
Analysis : Now it is the time to find the Whys .
- Why is the Reason something Worked? The Root Cause.
- Potential Root causes causing you a Problem.
Conclusions : Time to “Connect the Dots” and obtain Solid Conclusions .
- What Solid Conclusions have you Obtained?
- What Could have been done better?
Action Plan : Now, you have to put things into Practice .
- Set Specific, Measurable, Realistic and Time-Related Goals.
- Use Objective Metrics.
Let’s see some examples:
Gibbs Reflective Cycle examples
Now, let’s Imagine that you have recently been Promoted to Manager .
You are very happy about it, but you do not feel very Comfortable when you face your employees .
- Sometimes you have to impose yourself, so that what you say is done.
Also, it is something you would like to Improve on .
That is Why you decided to use Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle .
Let’s see How you use it:
Description - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example
The Situation in which you want to Improve :
- It is You and your Employees (no matter Who).
- You are In front of them alone or in a collective meeting.
- You Want things to be done in a New way.
- You Tell them how they have to do things from now on .
Feelings - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example
After thinking Carefully about it, you Discover that you Felt :
- Anxious about Compelling People to do Something.
- Insecure about you Authority.
- Determined about the Need of doing the Things in a New Way.
Evaluation - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example
You then Evaluate what happens in these Situations :
- You Compel your employees to do what you say.
- They obey you.
- Those who know you best Respond much better to your Commands .
- Those who don’t know you are more Reluctant to change .
Analysis - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example
Now, you start thinking about the Whys :
- This makes you Feel Insecure.
- They don’t make you Feel Anxious or Insecure .
- That and , the fact that you are New in the Position .
Conclusion - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example
You Obtain important Conclusions from this Analysis :
- Or People that don’t know your Skills when making decisions.
This People are Reluctant to “obey” you, and make you Feel Insecure and Anxious.
- So they will Trust you more.
- And they will Trust your Authority more.
Action Plan - Gibbs Reflective Cycle example
Finally, you decide to Develop an Action Plan :
- Starting with those who know you least.
- Comparing the Previous Results with the Current ones.
You Estimate that you will need 2 months to have met with all your employees.
- And decide if you need to repeat this Cycle again.
The Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a Tool that helps professionals Grow and Learn from their past Experiences.
Consists of 6 Repetitive Steps that must be repeated until getting the desired Results:
- Description : Describe in detail the Situation in which you want to improve.
- Feelings : Reflect on How you Felt in that Situation, How you Coped with it.
- Evaluation : Evaluate the Experience and its Outcome, Objectively.
- Analysis : Analyze the Reasons that explain the Result of this Situation.
- Conclusion : Get the Lessons from this Analysis; How to do things better.
- Action Plan : Develop and Implement a Plan to do things better.
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Article • 5 min read
Gibbs' Reflective Cycle
Helping people learn from experience.
By the Mind Tools Content Team
Many people find that they learn best from experience.
However, if they don't reflect on their experience, and if they don't consciously think about how they could do better next time, it's hard for them to learn anything at all.
This is where Gibbs' Reflective Cycle is useful. You can use it to help your people make sense of situations at work, so that they can understand what they did well and what they could do better in the future.
What Is Gibbs' Reflective Cycle?
Professor Graham Gibbs published his Reflective Cycle in his 1988 book " Learning by Doing ." It's particularly useful for helping people learn from situations that they experience regularly, especially when these don't go well.
Gibbs' cycle is shown below.
Figure 1 – Gibbs' Reflective Cycle
From "Learning by Doing" by Graham Gibbs. Published by Oxford Polytechnic, 1988.
Gibbs' original model had six stages. The stage we haven't covered here is "Analysis" – we've included this as part of the Evaluation stage.
Using the Model
You can use the model to explore a situation yourself, or you can use it with someone you're coaching – we look at coaching use in this article, but you can apply the same approach when you're on your own.
To structure a coaching session using Gibbs' Cycle, choose a situation to analyze and then work through the steps below.
Step 1: Description
First, ask the person you're coaching to describe the situation in detail. At this stage, you simply want to know what happened – you'll draw conclusions later.
Consider asking questions like these to help them describe the situation:
- When and where did this happen?
- Why were you there?
- Who else was there?
- What happened?
- What did you do?
- What did other people do?
- What was the result of this situation?
Step 2: Feelings
Next, encourage them to talk about what they thought and felt during the experience. At this stage, avoid commenting on their emotions.
Use questions like these to guide the discussion:
- What did you feel before this situation took place?
- What did you feel while this situation took place?
- What do you think other people felt during this situation?
- What did you feel after the situation?
- What do you think about the situation now?
- What do you think other people feel about the situation now?
It might be difficult for some people to talk honestly about their feelings. Use Empathic Listening at this stage to connect with them emotionally, and to try to see things from their point of view.
You can use the Perceptual Positions technique to help this person see the situation from other people's perspectives.
Step 3: Evaluation
Now you need to encourage the person you're coaching to look objectively at what approaches worked, and which ones didn't.
- What was positive about this situation?
- What was negative?
- What went well?
- What didn't go so well?
- What did you and other people do to contribute to the situation (either positively or negatively)?
If appropriate, use a technique such as the 5 Whys to help your team member uncover the root cause of the issue.
Step 4: Conclusions
Once you've evaluated the situation, you can help your team member draw conclusions about what happened.
Encourage them to think about the situation again, using the information that you've collected so far. Then ask questions like these:
- How could this have been a more positive experience for everyone involved?
- If you were faced with the same situation again, what would you do differently?
- What skills do you need to develop, so that you can handle this type of situation better?
Step 5: Action
You should now have some possible actions that your team member can take to deal with similar situations more effectively in the future.
In this last stage, you need to come up with a plan so that they can make these changes.
Once you've identified the areas they'll work on, get them to commit to taking action, and agree a date on which you will both review progress.
Frequently Asked Questions About Gibbs' Reflective Cycle
What is purpose of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle?
The reflective cycle is a way to better learn from experience. It can be used to help people learn from mistakes, to make sense of situations, and analyse and refelct on their reactions to different situations.
What are the six stages of reflection?
The stages of Gibbs' Reflective Cycle are the following: descrition, feelings, evaluation, conclusion, and action. In the original model Gibbs included a sixth stage, analysis, which we've included in the evaluation stage.
What is the difference between Gibbs and Kolb's reflective cycles?
David Kolb's cycle has only four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Kolb's model is more about explaining the concept of what he calls "experiential learning" – whereas Gibbs' cycle is an attempt to provide a practical method for learning from experience.
This tool is structured as a cycle, reflecting an ongoing coaching relationship. Whether you use it this way depends on the situation and your relationship with the person being coached.
Graham Gibbs published his Reflective Cycle in 1988. There are five stages in the cycle:
You can use it to help team members think about how they deal with situations, so that they can understand what they did wel and where they need to improve.
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- Learn From Your Past Experience with Gibb’s Reflective Cycle
- Exploring Different Types of Reflection Models with Examples
You must have heard about Gibbs' reflective cycle. It is a widely prominent reflective cycle that helps individuals to work through past experiences and improve future practices. Gibbs' The reflective cycle was developed by Graham Gibbs in 1988 with the main aim of structuring individual learnings from past experiences (Markkanen et al., 2020). Effective utilization of this cycle offers a wide opportunity to examine past experiences and improve future actions.
Table of Contents
Six stages of gibbs' reflective cycle.
- Example of Gibbs' reflective cycle
Hence, the efficacious use of Gibbs' reflective cycle helps individuals to learn from past experiences that went well as well as past experiences that did not. The 6 stages of Gibbs' cycle include description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion, and action plan (Smith & Roberts, 2015).
For each step of this framework, you can work on a set of helpful questions given below to properly reflect on your past experiences and situations.
Stage 1: Description
The first step in Gibbs' reflective cycle is a description where you get an opportunity to properly describe a situation based on your experience. The following questions can assist you in describing your experience are
- What happened? In this, you will explain the factual information about the experience you want to reflect upon.
- Why did it happen? In this, you will underline the main reason behind the occurrence of the event.
- What did you do? While answering this question, you will highlight all the actions taken by you.
- Who was present? In this, you will highlight all the people that were present during the event.
- What were the major outcomes? In this, you will underline the results of the actions that were taken by you.
Using these questions, you will provide complete background information about an incident as well as a factual description of the event you want to reflect upon.
Stage 2: Feelings
The second step in Gibbs’ reflective cycle is an analysis of your feelings where you can describe your thoughts as well as feelings in detail to reflect on the corresponding experience of your feelings. You can reflect on this phase on the basis of a few assisting questions given below:
- What did you feel? In this section, you will highlight your feelings during the experience.
- Why did you feel this way? You will highlight the major reasons behind feeling the way you were feeling.
- How did other external factors influence your feelings? In this section, you will underline the positive or negative influence of other external factors such as the environment, and other involved people on your feelings.
- How did other internal factors influence your feelings? In this section, you will highlight the influence of various internal factors such as mindset, attitude, and physical or mental health.
These questions will help you to describe your feelings and the way in detail and will also assist in making the reader understand your emotional aspect from the incident you are reflecting upon.
Stage 3: Evaluation
In the evaluation phase, you get a chance to properly evaluate what worked well and what didn't work well. This phase includes the evaluation of experiences from both good as well as bad points. Below given are the questions that can be answered in this phase
- What worked well? In this, you will highlight the positive outcomes of your actions throughout the experience.
- What didn't work well? This will highlight all the negative outcomes of your actions taken by you throughout the experience.
- What did you contribute? Through this question, you will highlight your contribution to the whole experience.
- What did others contribute? While answering this question, you will highlight the actions of others that were involved in the situation.
- What was missing? In this, you will highlight the actions that were missing in the experience as per your opinion.
Based on these questions, you can honestly and objectively evaluate the past situation which will also help you in setting a base for future actions.
Stage 4: Analysis
In an analysis phase, you can make sense of a whole situation and determine the exact meaning of a situation along with the reasons for its success or failure. Some helpful questions for the analysis phase of Gibbs’ reflective cycle include
- Why did things not work well? In this, you will point out the reason as per your knowledge that contributed to the failures of your actions in your experience.
- Why did things go well? Through this section, you will highlight the reasons behind the success of your actions.
- What is the exact meaning that we can drive from a situation? While answering this question, you will highlight the overall analysis of the situation.
Based on the analysis, you can get a clear picture of the situation and ensure that every aspect of the situation is covered and understood meticulously.
Stage 5: Conclusion
After a proper situation analysis, you can also conclude the whole situation by reflecting on your learnings. In this phase, you can highlight changes that you need to make to your actions while dealing with future situations. In this phase, a list of questions includes
- What did you learn? In this, you will highlight all of your main learnings of the situation.
- What skills do you need to gain to handle situations more effectively? Through this, you will highlight the requirements of the skills for handling the situation better in the future.
- What else could you have done to deal with situations differently? In this, you will highlight the alternative actions that you could have taken to respond to the same situation in a different manner.
After the analysis, in the conclusion phase, using the above questions, you will clearly outline your learnings and the skills gained through the experience.
Stage 6: Action plan
In the action plan stage in Gibbs’ reflective cycle, you can plan to deal with future situations. It is an important phase of this reflective cycle as this phase helps to determine ways to deal with similar situations in the future and actions that you need to take to improve your ability to deal with various situations. Some questions that can be considered in this stage include
- How will you deal with this situation more effectively in the future? In this, you will highlight the actions that you have thought of that will help you in dealing with a similar situation differently in the future.
- How will you develop your skills and abilities to deal with similar situations? In this situation, you will highlight the methods in which you will develop the skills for dealing with situations more effectively.
After understanding the cycle, let us now take an example of reflective practice in health education to reflect on the learning situation using Gibbs’ reflective cycle.
Gibbs’ reflective cycle example in health education
Case assessment - This reflective example will highlight the experience of students in a group task of completing a health project. In this, a student will reflect upon a group task assigned to students during their MSc in health practice.
While doing my MSc in health practice, I was required to engage in various group work assignments and during a certain group work task, my team members decided to divide tasks among group members. All team members encouraged me to divide the tasks among the team. I divided tasks among team members according to their knowledge regarding various healthcare practices to ensure that all tasks are completed within a set deadline. All team members encouraged me to divide the tasks among the team. I divided tasks among team members according to their knowledge regarding various healthcare practices to ensure that all tasks are completed within a set deadline. However, I failed to consider the risk of various contingencies in completing projects and the same occurred when one of our team members was hospitalized due to some health emergency which resulted in a lack of task completion assigned to that team member. My whole team was present when I got a call from the injured team member about the accident that occurred to him. This then resulted in an increased burden to complete tasks among team members and failure to complete a task on time.
Before beginning the health project, I was very confident regarding my team management capabilities. I felt that our team will be able to complete assigned tasks on time due to my strong knowledge and abilities. I was already feeling very guilty that our project got delayed because of my lack of planning but the external factors made me feel even worse. Other than that, I felt like it was my overconfidence that made me feel more guilty because things did not work as planned.
During the group health project, a thing that worked well was the effort of team members to complete work within the extended deadline was cooperation as well as motivation among all team members. However, I believe that the hospitalization of one team member resulted in a lack of task completion on time. I felt that contingency planning is one most important requirement in a team project which was missing in this project. Thus, I believe that I am also responsible for the bad repercussions of this situation as I failed to properly plan and did not consider the risks of contingencies in a group. But still, till the end, everyone contributed effectively and did not lose hope till the end and gave their best.
I think the major reasons behind the successful completion were group efforts, cooperation abilities, self-identification of strengths, effective division of tasks, and ability to help others. However, the only thing that created a problem in completing a project is a lack of time management and planning capabilities. Through this whole experience, I believe that I need to focus on improving my time management skills as well as leading the ability to effectively manage group tasks.
After getting into this group health project, I got to know that time management and contingency planning are important skills that every project manager needs to possess to effectively manage group tasks. I also found that team management is possible only through the cooperation of team members as well as their effort to give the best results to a team project. I learned that as a project manager, it is always better to have a contingency plan ready for implementation than to develop one as risk is taking its toll (Heimann, J. F. 2000). However, I found that various problems can arise in a group task which could be managed effectively by making contingency plans for such situations in advance. I would have prepared contingency plans in the beginning and I believe that it would have helped me in dealing with situations differently.
In order to deal with this situation in the future, I have decided that I will use various time management tools such as PERT and CPM while planning various group tasks to keep separate times for various contingencies. For enhancing my time management and planning skills, I have decided to use time management skills such as making time tables and assigning time blocks for each task. If a similar situation occurs again in the future, I will ensure that in the planning phase only, I take time for contingency planning and plan things accordingly.
How to reference Gibbs reflective cycle?
To reference Gibbs' reflective cycle, include the author's name "Gibbs" and the publication year (if available) in parentheses. For instance, in APA style, it would be: (Gibbs, 1988). If you use a direct quote, add the page number as well.
Can Gibbs' Reflective Model be used in any profession?
Yes, the model is versatile and applicable in various professions and fields, including education, healthcare, social work, and more.
What are the disadvantages of Gibb's reflective cycle?
Gibbs' reflective cycle lacks a strong theoretical foundation and may not suit complex or long-term learning experiences. Some of you may even find its structured approach restrictive that could potentially overlook unique aspects of individual experiences. Additionally, it may not be universally applicable to various learning contexts.
Markkanen, P., Välimäki, M., Anttila, M., & Kuuskorpi, M. (2020). A reflective cycle: Understanding challenging situations in a school setting. Educational Research, 62(1), 46-62. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131881.2020.1711790
Smith, J., & Roberts, R. (2015). Reflective Practice. Vital Signs For Nurses, 222-230. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119139119.ch14
Heimann, J. F. (2000). Contingency planning as a necessity. Paper presented at Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium, Houston, TX. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
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Gibbs Reflective Cycle Sample Essay By an Expert(2022)
This article provides a sample essay written by one of our nursing professional writers about the Gibbs Reflective Cycle . The aim of the article is to provide nursing students with a blueprint to follow when writing their own essay. However, if your don’t have adequate time to finish, or you need assistance further in writing your essay, just place order .
Pro-essays.com has the top and most qualified writers to help with any of your assignments. All you need to do is place an order with us. (Gibbs Reflective Cycle)
Critically reflect on an encounter with a service user in a health care setting -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
This essay aims to critically reflect on an encounter with a service user in a health care setting. The Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle will be used as this is a popular model of reflection. Reflection is associated with learning from experience. It is viewed as an important approach for professionals who embrace lifelong learning (Jasper, 2013). In general terms, reflective practice is the process of learning through and from an experience or activity to gain new understandings of self and/or practice (Bout et al., 1985; Jasper, 2013). This method is viewed as a way of promoting the personal and professional development of qualified and independent professionals, eventually stimulating both personal and professional growth (Jasper, 2013). Dating back to 1988, the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle encompasses six stages of reflection which enable the reflector to think through all the phases of an activity or experience (Gibbs, 1998). The model is unique because it includes knowledge, actions, emotions and suggests that experiences are repeated, which is different from Kolb’s reflective model (Kolb, 1984) and thus, the model is wider and a more flexible approach in examining a situation in a critical light to enable future changes (Zeichner and Liston, 1996).
As you continue, pro-essays.com has the top and most qualified writers to help with any of your assignments. All you need to do is place an order with us. (Gibbs Reflective Cycle)
1. Description -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
The incident I will be reflecting on occurred whilst I was placed on the oncology ward during my first year of qualified nursing . We had an elderly service user on the ward, who had been admitted due to stomach cancer. Upon his arrival, we read his notes which highlighted that he had significant learning difficulties, meaning that he also had problems with verbal communication. The main areas of reflection are how both myself and the other nurses used communication to calm the patient and show compassion, as well as how we adapted our care to address their individual needs. A nurse came onto the ward with three members of the public, who were viewing the ward as part of a job advertising process. When the nurse entered the patients bay, she informed the members of the public that the service users in that bay were currently receiving radiotherapy treatment. Upon hearing the nurse’s words, the service user became overtly distressed and began crying, shrieking and hitting his head backwards against his pillow –it took time; however, another nurse managed to calm him down by talking in a soothing manner.
2. Feelings -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
Prior to the incident occurring, I was mindful that the nurse was showing the three members of the public around the oncology ward, as part of a job advertising process. At the time of the incident, I had only been working on the oncology ward for six months so still felt slightly unsure of my position within the team. Ultimately, I did not feel confident or experienced enough to deal with this situation independently. I think that my increased level of anxiety meant that I struggled to intervene, however it is still clear that both my colleagues and myself should have intervened more quickly to ensure that the patient was dealt with effectively. Moreover, I was very surprised when the nurse failed to take into consideration the individual needs of the service user during the visit of the ward, as the distress caused to both the service user and the members of the public was very unnecessary.
3. Evaluation -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
In hindsight, the experience had both good and bad elements which have led to an increased understanding of the service user experience and my role as a nurse practitioner within the oncology team. My role was to give physical examinations and evaluate the service user’s health, prescribe and administer medication, recommend diagnostic and laboratory tests/read the results, manage treatment side effects, and provide support to patients – this includes acting in their best interests. I feel that I did not fulfil the latter responsibility completely. This duty to protect service user’s full confidentiality and ensuring that the nurse who was showing the members of the public around the ward was aware of the service user’s communication difficulties and resulting anxiety was not fulfilled. Our failure to act as a team, by sharing information and stepping in before a situation escalated, shows that there was a low level of group cohesiveness (Rutkowski, Gruder and Romer, 1983).
4. Analysis -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
According to the Nursing Times Clinical (2004), people with learning difficulties often have a struggle with adapting to new situations, which means that there is a potential for problematic behaviour when dealing with something outside of their comfort zone. Nevertheless, as suggested by the Nursing Times Clinical (2004), healthcare staff should be aware of how to effectively interact with people who have a learning disability and this can be aided through regular and valuable reflection. Prior to admission into the hospital, it is advised that professionals find out about the patient’s communication and their likes and dislikes; address any potential fears either through discussion or by allowing the patient to visit the ward to meet the nursing staff (Nursing Times Clinical, 2004). Moreover, the day to day communication towards patients with learning difficulties should involve patient-centred/holistic care in addressing patient needs, which incorporates both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. Therefore, professionals should make eye contact, look and listen, allocate more time for the patient, be interactive and communicative, remain patient and in some cases, enable any professionals who may have had experience with people with a learning difficulty to care for the patient (Nursing Times Clinical, 2004).
MENCAP states that one of the most common problems when accessing healthcare for people with learning disabilities is poor communication (n.d). This can be aided by offering the service user an advocate to communicate on their behalf and by providing information in a variety of ways including visual. They further this with the notion that healthcare professionals should equally value all people, adapt their service so that it meets different needs and understand that each individual will have different needs (MENCAP, n.d). The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) (2015) further this in ‘The Code’, which states that all registered nurses and midwives must abide by the professional standards which are to: prioritise people, practise effectively, preserve safety and promote professionalism and trust. Therefore, the incident whereby another nurse did not take into consideration the individual needs of the patient does not abide by the professional code of conduct; ultimately, they did not recognise when the patient was anxious or in distress and respond compassionately, paying attention to promoting the wellbeing of the service user and making use of a range of verbal and non-verbal communication methods (NMC, 2015). Compassion is one of the ‘6cs’ introduced in 2012 – which are the values and behaviours that are viewed as the quality markers of a health and care service – these being: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment (Department of Health, 2012). The 6Cs carry equal weight and should be a part of all service delivery – ensuring that patients are always placed at the heart of the provision (DoH, 2012).
5. Conclusion -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
From this experience, I am now more mindful of the importance of being assertive and exert professionalism in practice (and not feel as though I cannot do something because of my position within the team or length of experience) if similar situations were to arise in the future. The insight I have gained from this experience means that I am now more aware of the implications of not acting immediately and the importance of acting in the best interests of the patient, even when this may take courage. Strong working relationships between healthcare professionals should also be given a greater emphasis within the oncology ward, so to increase levels of group cohesiveness (Rutkowski, Gruder and Romer, 1983).
Action Plan -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
In the future, I aim to be more proactive in dealing with a situation face on regardless of my role within the team or level of experience; this includes dealing with a stressed service user, ensuring that information is passed on to the relevant staff and intervening when I believe that is a risk to a service user’s health or mental wellbeing. Moreover, I will address the needs and alter how I approach a patient with learning difficulties in the future by ensuring that I use the different methods of communication and undertake some independent research on their specific needs; the information of which I can use in my nursing practice.
I will not assume that other members of staff will always be aware or mindful of the individual needs and/or triggers of a service user, and I will not presume that other members of staff will always act in a wholly professional way. I will continue to undertake regular professional reflective practice, using the on-going model proposed by Gibbs (1988). I also aim to consistently and confidently implement the principles and values as set out by the National League for Nursing, relating to the individual needs of service users, these being:
To respect the dignity and moral wholeness of every person without conditions or limitation.
To affirm the uniqueness of and differences among people, their ideas, values and ethnicities. (National League for Nursing, 2017, n.d).
These are furthered by the National Health Service (NHS), which was created out of the ideal that quality healthcare should be available to all and should meet the individual needs of everyone.
Reference List -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
- Boud, D., Keogh, R. and Walker, D. (1985) Promoting reflection in learning: a model. In D. Boud, R. Keogh and D. Walker (eds.) Reflection: turning experience into learning. London: Kogan Page.
- Department of Health (DoH). (2012) Compassion in Practice. London: Department of Health.
- Gibbs G (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford.
- Jasper, M. (2013) Beginning Reflective Practice. 2nd edition. Andover: Cengage.
- Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
- MENCAP. (n.d) Communicating with people with a learning disability. Online. Available at: https://www.mencap.org.uk/sites/default/files/2016-12/Communicating%20with%20people_updated%20(1).pdf
- National Health Service (NHS). (2015) Principles and values that guide the NHS. Online. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/about/Pages/nhscoreprinciples.aspx
- National League for Nursing. (2017) Core Values. Online. Available at: http://www.nln.org/about/core-values
- Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). (2015) The Code. London: Nursing and Midwifery Council.
- Nursing Times Clinical. (2004) Managing the needs of people who have a learning disability, Nursing Times 100 (10) pp. 28-29.
- Oxford Brookes University. (2017) Reflective writing: About Gibbs reflective cycle. Online. Available at: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/students/upgrade/study-skills/reflective-writing-gibbs/
- Rutkowski, G. K., Gruder, C. L., & Romer, D. (1983). Group cohesiveness, social norms, and bystander intervention, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44(3), pp.545-552.
- Zeichner, K. and Liston, D. (1996) Reflective Teaching: an introduction. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Related FAQs -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
1. What are some examples of reflective writing?
Examples of Reflective Writing
- A journal requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. …
- A learning diary is similar to a journal, but may require group participation. …
- A logbook is often used in disciplines based on experimental work, such as science. …
- A reflective note is often used in law.
2. What is the Gibbs Reflective Cycle definition?
Gibbs Reflective Cycle is a self-reflection and management tool that help people to think clearly and systematically about the different experiences they have gone through during specific activity or similar situation and draw conclusions.
3. How do you write a Gibbs reflective cycle?
- Step 1 – Description. This should be a brief description of the experience or event to set the scene and give context.
- Step 2 – Feelings.
- Step 3 – Evaluation.
- Step 4 – Analysis.
- Step 5 – Conclusion.
- Step 6 – Action Plan.
- Step 1 – Description.
Read More -Gibbs Reflective Cycle
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