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Johns and Freshwaters (1998) define reflection as accessing and looking back into previous experiences helping to develop tacit and intuitive knowledge. Reflection as having to develop tacit and intuitive knowledge as defined by Johns and Freshwaters (1998) means having a common understanding about something with being sensitive to links with previous knowledge and experiences. Ghaye and Lillyman (2000) also defined reflection as a transformative process that changes or alters individuals and their motives. Reflection is also a way to reach awareness of how and why things have happened as stated by Johns (2002). Bout et al (1985) however gave a more in depth definition of what reflection is, they suggested that reflection in the context of learning is a generic term for those intellectual activities in which individual engage in on a daily basis to explore their experiences that will lead them to newer understandings and appreciations of what they have done. Moon (1999) concluded that reflection appears to be the engine that shifts learning into deep learning and that reflection transforms knowing in action into knowledge in action as stated by Moon (1999) and Schon (1983). Baird and Henderson (2001) then argued that this occurs because reflection allows an individual to gain the proper perspective on the field of action and to attain the understanding of the change in practice required.
Reflection is also the process of reviewing an experience in order to describe, analyse, evaluate and so inform learning about practice as defined by Reid (1993). Reflection in the context of learning helps us to learn and grow and develop within ourselves. He also believes that reflection is an active process that requires self-control and self-discipline for it to be focused on one direction that could lead to personal development in practice.
Learning can be defined as multi-dimensional in terms of where and how it takes place and yet, learning is also a very individual process and what is carried forward by an individual is what can only be truly be gauged by the learner. West et al. (2007) defines lifewide learning as a form of learning that is not only limited to the classroom, but also extends into many other areas of life. This means that we don't just learn in classrooms but we also learn by the experiences we go through in our lives. This is where reflection comes into relation as a way of learning as Moon (1999) concluded that reflection appears to be the engine that shifts learning into deep learning. Lifelong learning also refers to a process of learning that continues across our lives (Jarvis, 2004). This means that, we never stop learning as we grow older and that we learn different things as each day comes. In relation to nursing, lifelong learning is a professional reality for nurses and other health care professionals because the healthcare and the technologies that support it are constantly evolving. Because of this, learning in the healthcare industry often takes place in the form of practice development and professional development (Mason and Whitehead-Mason, 2008).
Many models have been introduced to aid people to reflect effectively with positive results. Taylor (2000) suggested that reflection requires effort that utilises the qualities of determination, courage, and a sense of humour in order to be able to deal with what an individual might find out. This means that an individual reflecting into something must possess these qualities in order to establish an effective outcome. For that, there have been many reflective models that have been introduced to suit the reflector. Using a model helps an individual to identify key stages of his or her reflective learning and the structure can help the individual to keep going when he or she is dealing with complex situations. It is then important to choose what model suits the individual's needs and that he or she might find it easy to use.
Reflective cycles offer the possibility to connect what has been learned from one experience with another. One of the most widely used reflective cycles is Gibbs' (1998) reflective cycle. The cycle outlines specific steps to guide the learning individual through different processes. The first step of the cycle is to ask the learner to describe an event that has happened which then leads on the second stage where the individual thinks about how he or she felt during the event relating to what has been described in the first stage, by acknowledging the emotions involved during the event, the learner will be able to consider processes such as how to deal and cope with emotions in difficult situations that may be aroused by caring work and learning. Thirdly, the learner then evaluates the event or activity whether it was good or bad and what steps needs to be considered following the event. Evaluation also allows the learner to begin thinking about what are the main issues that needs to be resolved. This stage can then lead the learner to analyse in greater detail by considering what knowledge is available or might need to be developed, and what other choices might have been available in the given event or situation and the possible consequences if one of those choices had been chosen instead. The analysis of the event will help the learner to critically think about what has really happened and what steps should be made in order for him or her to solve the given situation and to reflect upon on. Given the analysis of the situation or event, this stage will help the learner to make sense of what has happened which will lead to the stage of coming up with a conclusion from what they have thought about during the whole process. The conclusion will ask the learner what other steps could have been done to improve the given event or situation which will then lead to an action plan.
Another model that can be used in reflection is Driscoll's (2007, p44.) reflective cycle. Driscoll developed Borton's (1970) 3 stem questions; what?, so what?, and what now?. He matched the three questions to the stages of an experimental learning cycle and this cycle views reflection as a process of interrogating. These three questions encompass the need to be clear in the interpretation, interrogation and presentation of learning through reflection. By using this model of reflection, the learner will then ask him or herself three simple questions. The first question or the 'what' stage will always refer to being able to describe the given situation in words. Some trigger questions maybe 'what happened?' or 'what was my reaction to the event or situation?'. The next stage is the 'so what' stage where the learner begins to analyse the important aspects of the given situation and experience from which new findings can be made. And the final question is the 'what now?' stage where the individual proposes new actions based on the findings that was found in the second stage which may be reworked in multiple different situations. This model of reflection is simple but effective because it is easy to remember three simple questions and can easily be asked as a part of most conversation between individuals within practice (Jasper 2003).
Johns (2004) developed a model for structured reflection. This identifies how an individual might want to examine his or her experience more extensively and in greater depth in order to really learn from it. The model's starting point is the creation of a space for reflection which means stilling the mind so it can focus. The model then encompasses a number of reflective cues or questions in which the practitioner or individual is asked to think about in the course of reflecting on a given situation. The cues are: aesthetics, personal, ethical, empirical and reflexive aspects. Aesthetics relates to how the individual feels about, responds to and perceives the situation and those involved. Personal aspects explore what from the person was influencing them. Ethics refers how actions are related to ethical guidelines and beliefs. Empirics are concerned with what knowledge is used and lastly, reflexivity relates to how experiences are connected and the possibility of given alternatives to doing things differently.
Schon (1991) identified reflective practice as an important aspect of the learning life of professionals. Rolfe (1998) also defined reflective practice as a process that develops understandings of what it means to be a practitioner and makes the link between theory and practice through the practitioner consciously thinking through the individual's experience as stated by Jasper (2003). This concept is particularly important for practitioners to aid the development of a clearer understanding of their position and support the learning and developing of new skills, with this context, reflection occurs within the experience or by looking further back at the previous experience. This is where the idea of reflective practice comes in hand. Schon (1991) identified these concepts and ideas as reflection in action and reflection on action. Reflection in action is defined as knowing what to do and making a difference within a given situation whereas reflection on action is referred to as examining some of those in moment decisions for the possibility of differing choices. Reflective practice requires careful consideration of knowledge and ideas and also, reflective practice considers practice as a holistic entity that cannot be always be rationalised as holism means looking at the wider picture and going in greater detail with it. This therefore concludes that reflective practice is based on an individual's own experiences and intuitive learning. Knowledge derived from practice does not always add up to professional knowledge unless it has been reflected on for its significance (Eraut, 1994).