John is a retail manager at a well-renowned fashion outlet in Toronto, Canada. For an upcoming fashion exhibition, he was asked to order 2 boxes of white linen shirts. John places the order online and goes for a short lunch break. A couple of hours later, he receives an email in his mailbox from the vendor with a receipt for the order. He gulps down in fear on opening the mail. Instead of 2 boxes, the receipt reads 20.

A dismayed John writes an email instantly apologizing for his huge mistake and cancelling the extra 18 boxes he had ordered mistakenly. Later in the day, he gets a scolding from his general manager, who informs John that the organization will greatly suffer a hefty fine due to his carelessness, and a major part will be deducted from his next month’s salary.

Almost every organization has suffered losses due to human error, despite their employees putting the best foot forward. However, the key to dealing with such mistakes is not resentment or regret- its reflection, which has been aptly laid out in Gibb’s reflective cycle.

Today’s blog is for everyone out there who strongly believes people learn things by only practicing and not reflecting on experience. Reading this blog will not only put you miles ahead but help you greatly make sense, comprehend, and reflect on how to do better next time in the long run.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle: A Brief Overview

Formulated by Graham Gibbs in 1988, the Gibbs Reflective Cycle was designed to provide structure to learn from experiences. It is one of the most popular theoretical models that encourage people to think about what they had encountered during a specific situation or event. This method enables people to be more attentive. It analyzes the positive and negative impacts of an event by making them aware of their actions and realizes from their own experiences the aspects they require to improve.

The cycle is incredibly helpful to ponder about the specific situation excessively deeply, and by reflecting on those experiences, people become aware of their actions and can change or adjust their behavior. Gibb’s reflective cycle was originally devised for nursing-like Rolfe’s model of reflection. However, this has become popular across numerous disciplines and widely applied as a prominent model of reflective practice.

History of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

In the opinion of eminent essay writers around the world, Graham Gibb was an American psychologist and sociologist. He first published his Reflective Cycle Model in 1988 in his book called ‘Learning By Doing’. The framework was engineering for examining experiences. Given its cyclic nature, it is known to lend itself especially remarkably to repeated experiences, helping you learn, plan, and evaluate from things that either went well or didn’t go well.

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The crucial element of this process is especially the acknowledgement of the significance of feelings in reflection. Most people consider experience to be the best teacher. However, until you reflect on the experience and consciously think about how to improve next time, the learning process will remain incomplete. This is where Gibbs reflective cycle comes into play. Applying this method, you can evaluate your or other actions and comprehend what can be done better in the future.

The Six Steps Of Gibbs Reflective Cycle

The framework of the Gibbs Reflective Cycle includes six remarkable steps. Each of these six stages helps people engage and reflect on a specific learning experience. Have a look at the six steps enlisted below in detail-

  • Step 1- Description

The first step discusses the situation, experience, activity, or even minute details without focusing on the conclusions immediately. The aim of an individual at this stage must be to know what happened. One can ask the following questions to get a better understanding of the situation-

  • What actually happened?
  • Where did this happen?
  • When did this happen?
  • Who was there?
  • What did you do?
  • What did others do?
  • What was the consequence of the situation?
  • Step 2- Feelings

In this specific stage, it is crucial to speak about the thought and felt during the situation. During this period, you need to refrain from commenting on any of your emotions. Remember to not discuss feelings in detail or comment on it. To assess this, you can use these questions-

  • What did you feel before the incident happened?
  • How did you feel during the situation that took place?
  • What did you think about others people feeling during the incident?
  • What did you feel after the activity?
  • What do you think about the incident now that it happened?
  • Step 3- Evaluation

This third step of the Gibbs Reflective Cycle by Graham Gibbs is marked as evaluation, where people assess their experience positively or negatively both about the situation. This is the step where you are required to be objective and comprehend what worked in your favor and what did not.

Take help of the following questions to form a clear idea about the situations-

  • What was positive about this specific situation?
  • What was negative about this situation?
  • What went well in this situation?
  • What did not go so well in the specific situation?
  • What did you do to contribute to this situation, either positively or negatively?
  • Step 4- Analysis

This step is to find out what lesson you have acquired from the event, situation, or activity. On the basis of the past experience, you can think to perform well if a similar kind of situation arises in the future. The analysis is mostly conducted along with the evaluation. These are the examples of certain helpful questions you can ask yourself-

  • What was the thing that was good about the situation?
  • What was the negative side of the activity?
  • What you did to contribute during the situation?
  • What didn’t go well during the situation?
  • What good happened during the incident?
  • Step 5- Conclusion

This is the specific stage when you are required to look back at yourself during that event from a distance of time. You also need to imagine what else could be done in that specific state. The information gathered while concluding can be of immense significance to become a better person. It can help prevent unwanted things from occurring in the future.

  • Step 6- Action Plan

The sixth and last step of the Gibbs reflective cycle is the action plan. Here people describe how they will deal with similar situations in the future and how to do better next time. This is the remarkable stage to make changes and come up with a plan to do things differently in the future.

Final Thoughts

Gibbs ‘Learning By Doing’ is a unique way to self-assess and evaluate the learning process. The learner must wholly commit to the learning process, while reflecting upon the successes and pitfalls during and after the process. The reflective cycle helps the learner to do this by breaking down the process in 6 crucial steps. Following this process effectively helps you become a reflective practitioner and begin to use your personal and professional experience as a means for continuing development.


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