6 Stages of Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

Human beings like to learn and improve from experiences, but this process requires an element of introspection. This means that experiencing something isn’t enough in itself to learn from it. Indeed, you also need to consciously think about your experiences, reflect on them and assess what can be done better. Only then will you improve and get better results the next time.

What Is the Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

The Gibbs' Reflective Cycle approach aims at providing you with the right tools to understand this "learning from experience" process and make the most of it. Note that this method can be applied in many different situations, such as  self-improvement, coaching, or mentoring, but it's most commonly used to describe the way people learn about their own behaviors and thoughts.

Gibbs' reflective cycle is named for its creator, scientist J. W. Gibbs. In the 1930s, he developed this model as part of his research on human behavior and learning processes; today, it's still considered one of the best ways for people to understand how they learn from experience.

Why Is Gibbs' Cycle of Reflection Important

According to Gibbs, reflecting on your learning experience assists you in improving your performance both in the present and future.

Using this reflection technique on your own learning will increase your productivity and the quality of work for next time. Graham Gibbs claims that it is challenging to learn only by experiencing the situation/event/activity; thus, reflection is essential. Even nurses apply Gibbs’ cycle of reflection while working with patients as it can enable them to identify their role in an incident and to help to understand how the incident might have been avoided.

The Six Stages of Gibbs’ Model of Reflection

The Gibbs' reflective model is a framework giving structure into the process of learning from experiential learning through six stages: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusions, and plan of action.

Each of the six stages of Gibbs’ model encourages the individual to reflect on their experiences through questions.

Step 1. Description

During this step, the idea is for you to describe a situation and understand what happened in that specific situation. Some of the questions you can ask yourself to help include:

Note that during this stage, you should only state what happened and not give your opinion or jump to conclusions. Instead, try to describe the situation as it unfolded as accurately as possible.

Step 2. Feeling

During this stage, the self-reflection process will help you understand how you felt before, during, and after a situation and how your feelings might have impacted your experience. In order to self-improve, some of the relevant self-reflection questions to ask yourself include:

This step is particularly important as the way you felt during a situation will determine whether you need to improve and work on yourself to feel better next time a similar situation arises.

Step 3. Evaluation

During the evaluation stage, the idea is for you to objectively look at the situation and try to understand what worked and what didn't. As a result, ensure you focus on both the positive and negative aspects of a situation to make the most of your personal reflection process. Some of the questions you should ask yourself include:

Step 4. Analysis

This is one of the most critical steps to the model. During the analysis stage, you’ll get a chance to understand why the experience was positive or negative. The model suggests that you separate what went well and what didn’t and question why. Some of the questions to ask yourself include:

Step 5. Conclusion

During this step, it’s time to draw conclusions about what happened. You’ll have the opportunity to sum up what you’ve learned so far and highlight what specific changes to your actions could help improve the future outcome. Some helpful self-reflection questions to ask yourself include:

Step 6. Plan of Action

This is your time to plan what you should do differently the next time a similar or related situation arises. Besides, not only should you plan what you would do differently, but you should also know how to make it happen. Some of the relevant questions you should ask yourself include:

You can learn more about the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle Model here.

Final Reflection

Gibbs’ model of reflection is a "thinking" process. It begins with self-awareness, followed by asking questions such as: What happened? Why did it happen? Then gather and analyze your thoughts in order to gain a better understanding. Finally, you can use the results of your reflection to draw conclusions and make changes so that future outcomes are better.