Question Malcolm Education

Explain Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle.

Explain Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle.

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Answer Internal Staff

Gibbs’ reflective cycle (1988) is a tool used by numerous professionals, including (but not limited to) health professionals, education workers and those in leadership positions: its purpose is to assist practitioners in reflection, which contributes to continuous personal development (CPD) and helps to ensure that a person is continually learning and improving in their role. The idea is to systematically reflect on a particular situation to ensure that all aspects have been considered and evaluated, as this will assist the reflector in understanding what to do next time they are in a similar situation. The process consists of the following steps:

  1. Description: What happened?
  2. Feelings: What were you thinking/feeling?
  3. Evaluation: What was good about the experience? What was bad about it?
  4. Analysis: What sense can be made of the situation? What was really going on, as opposed to what you may have perceived?
  5. Conclusion: What was the end result – how well did you think you managed the situation overall? What else could you have done in the situation?
  6. Action plan: If the situation occurred again, what would you do? Would you act differently? Is there a skill you can develop or something you can learn to help you to be better equipped next time?

To achieve higher-level reflective practice, the focus should be on the ‘evaluation’ and ‘analysis’ stages, as these are the areas where personal experience and academic theory can be integrated. Ultimately, the purpose of reflection is to facilitate experiential learning: models such as the Gibbs cycle offer a way of structuring thoughts about an experience into a clear and coherent evaluation of a situation, leading directly onto an action plan for improvement later on.


Gibbs G (1988). Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit, Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford.