Reflective Practice


“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflection on experience”


What is Reflective Practice? 

“Reflective practice is learning and developing through examining what we think happened on any occasion, and how we think others perceived the event and us, opening our practice to scrutiny by others . . .” (G Bolton, Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development p.7)

Looking at a dictionary, reflection might be defined as: To mirror / To look back / To cast a light on / To meditate.

Reflection is deliberate and intentional. It is a process that we consciously undertake, in the professional sense, in order to take stock of our practice by interpreting, analysing, and questioning the way we work. It is the first step in the process of looking at ourselves critically, questioning all the assumptions that we have been operating on, and refashioning, reformulating, and reinventing the way we do things (Reale 2017).

Reflection enables us to:

* Stand back from and think about an experience and our role in a situation

* Find new perspectives

* Make sense of our experiences

* Raise self-awareness

* Learn from our experiences



As you experience reflection, you will also realise that learning happens in lots of ways – from your reading, from information and facts for example.

We can also learn from our experience and in reflection, our experience is essentially what we work with.

Reflection, therefore, involves our experience and our thoughts, hunches and feelings about this experience.

Furthermore, Reflective Practice asks us to take this and to suspend our habitual thoughts and assumptions and to examine experience in an open way. Sometimes we need to repeatedly examine a context in order to see differently.

Reflection also usually invites us to become more honest with ourselves about our behaviour and our way of seeing and thinking.

As it works we often develop the capacity to see ourselves in the act or moment, to become aware of our actions and also being able to see them.

What distinguishes Reflective Practice is that it requires an openness, a willingness to notice our ways of thinking and seeing, to become aware of these and then to re-examine experience. A number of practices exist to support this such as journaling, critical questions, drawing and storyboarding.

Reflection lets us examine our actions, see ourselves in new ways and to learn from this. This might create a change in behaviour, practice or our thinking.


A definition of reflection captures these aspects:

“The process of creating and clarifying the meaning of experience (past and present) in terms of self (self in relation to self and self in relation to the world). The outcome of the process is changed conceptual perspective”

(Boyd & Fales 1983)


At DkIT Library, we have a Libguide on Reflective Practice which you can access here.

The Value of Reflection

Why Reflect?

Integrating reflection into the foundation / groundwork of what we do can be a powerful tool. By becoming more fully aware of ourselves and how we perceive and function in both the personal and professional spheres we gain the power to effect change. Mezirow sees such critical reflection as the first step towards transformative learning. It acts as a catalyst for more effective practice. We reflect so that we can:

* Gain new insights

* Acquire new understandings

* Challenges assumptions – our own and others

* Construct meanings and knowledge that will guide us in our future practice


There are several models used for reflection, take a look at some of these and see which ones suit you best:


The following cues are offered to help practitioners to access, make sense of, and learn through experience.


* Write a description of the experience

* What are the key issues within this description that I need to pay attention to?


* What was I trying to achieve?

* Why did I act as I did?

* What are the consequences of my actions?

* For the patient and family

* For myself

* For people I work with

* How did I feel about this experience when it was happening?

* How did the patient feel about it?

* How do I know how the patient felt about it?

Influencing factors

* What internal factors influenced my decision-making and actions?

* What external factors influenced my decision-making and actions?

* What sources of knowledge did or should have influenced my decision making and actions?

* Alternative strategies

* Could I have dealt better with the situation?

* What other choices did I have?

* What would be the consequences of these other choices?


* How can I make sense of this experience in light of past experience and future practice?

* How do I NOW feel about this experience?

* Have I taken effective action to support myself and others as a result of this experience?

* How has this experience changed my way of knowing in practice?


From: Johns, C. (1994). Nuances of reflection. Journal of Clinical Nursing 3 71-75



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