The Gibb’s Reflective Cycle
We all know the benefits of learning from experience – and the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle can help us to take invaluable lessons from an event, project or other experience.
Suitable for use by individuals, teams or companies, the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle provides a framework for self-reflection, allowing us to look back on a learning experience, draw conclusions and improve our future performance.
What is reflective learning?
Reflective learning is the process of considering an experience and reflecting on what went well and where improvements could be made. It will help you to develop critical thinking skills and apply lessons learned to your future activities.
The process involves taking a step back from experiences and reaching conclusions based on critical thinking. It’s a systematic approach, which involves ongoing learning and development from each experience you have. It also encourages you to take time to look back at an experience rather than jumping to conclusions.
How does the Gibb’s Reflective Cycle work?
The Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle is a clear and systematic model of reflection. By encouraging reflection on an experience, it ensures that lessons learned are not lost or forgotten.
The Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle comprises six stages, which help you to work through an experience, draw conclusions and carry your learning forward to future projects.
- Action Plan
The first three steps focus on your experience as it happened; the next three are related to improvements that could be made for future experiences.
The six steps in detail
- Description – where you write out a short description of what happened during the project or experience. Keep to the facts rather than drawing conclusions at this stage.
- Feeling – document how you felt during and after the experience, again using description only to record your emotional response, rather than trying to analyse it. Include how you thought other people involved felt about the situation.
- Evaluation – record what went well and what didn’t work; include both your own experiences and any relevant experiences of others involved in the process, as well as outside influences. Make sure you remain objective.
- Analysis – why did things go well or badly and did everyone involved have the same experience and draw the same conclusion? What systems or people contributed towards the successes and failures of the experience? Were the advance preparations lacking in any way or were there external issues outside your control?
- Conclusion – what did you learn and what skills did you develop during the experience? Can you take these forward to future projects and do you need to fill any skills gaps? Be specific in your answers.
- Action Plan – a summary of the actions you could look at taking to improve or adapt your skills or knowledge. Consider what you might do differently if the same or a similar situation arises.
Who came up with the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle?
The Cycle was outlined in Professor Graham Gibbs’ book Learning by Doing (1988) and has since become a standard text for a range of professions, including HR, healthcare and educational professionals, as well as business owners and managers.
Even if an activity goes as planned, there are always lessons to be learned and to take forward to other projects. The Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle provides a clear and easy framework to learn from our experiences and work out what we might do differently in the future.