2.1 Explain the cyclical process of reflection

2.1 Explain the cyclical process of reflection

Personal development in health, social care or children’s and young people’s settings

Care Learning

6 mins READ

This guide will help you answer RQF Level 4 Diploma in Adult Care Unit 2.1 Explain the cyclical process of reflection.

The cyclical process of reflection plays a crucial role in adult care. It helps professionals continuously improve their skills and provide better support to those in their care. In this context, reflection isn’t just about thinking back on past actions – it’s a structured process that enables personal and professional growth.

What is Reflection?

Reflection involves looking back on experiences, actions, and outcomes to gain insights. It’s a methodical way of evaluating what happened, why it happened, and how things can be improved in the future. Unlike casual daydreaming, reflective practice is deliberate and purposeful.

The Cyclical Process of Reflection

The cyclical process of reflection refers to an ongoing loop of reflecting, learning, and applying knowledge. It’s an iterative cycle that involves several key stages. By following these steps, care workers can constantly enhance their practice.

Key Models

Several models illustrate this cyclical process, but we will focus on three popular ones:

  1. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle
  2. Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle
  3. Johns’ Model for Structured Reflection

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

David Kolb’s model consists of four stages:

  1. Concrete Experience: This is the ‘doing’ stage. It involves having an actual experience. For instance, administering medication to a client.
  2. Reflective Observation: Here, you think about what happened. What worked well? What didn’t?
  3. Abstract Conceptualisation: In this stage, you form theories based on your reflections. You might identify new strategies for improvement.
  4. Active Experimentation: Finally, you apply your new strategies in practice. You test out your theories to see if they bring better results.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

Graham Gibbs provides a more detailed cyclical process with six stages:

  1. Description: What happened during the experience? Provide a clear account.
  2. Feelings: What were you thinking and feeling at the time?
  3. Evaluation: What was good and bad about the experience?
  4. Analysis: Why did things go well or poorly? Look into the reasons behind the outcomes.
  5. Conclusion: What could you have done differently? Recognise areas for improvement.
  6. Action Plan: If you face a similar situation in the future, what will you do? Develop a strategy for next time.

Johns’ Model for Structured Reflection

Christopher Johns’ model is a more elaborate and personal approach. It involves deeper introspection:

  1. Description of the Experience: Similar to the other models, start by detailing what happened.
  2. Reflecting on Action: Specifically, look at your actions through structured questioning:
  • What was I trying to achieve?
  • Why did I do what I did?
  • How might my client have been feeling?
  1. Influencing Factors: Consider the context of the situation. Were there external factors influencing your actions?
  2. How Could I Have Improved?: Think critically about your actions. Identify changes you could make.
  3. Learning: What did you learn? How will this experience influence your future practice?

Why Reflection Matters in Adult Care

Improving Care Quality

Reflection directly impacts the quality of care you provide. By consistently evaluating your actions and outcomes, you can identify areas for improvement. This leads to better patient outcomes and higher standards of care.

Personal Development

Reflection contributes to your personal growth. It helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses. With this knowledge, you can focus on developing skills that need improvement.

Professional Growth

In adult care, remaining up-to-date with best practices is crucial. Reflection encourages continuous learning. It helps you stay relevant in a constantly evolving field.

Ethical Practice

Reflection ensures you consider the ethical dimensions of your actions. You become more mindful of how your actions impact clients. This results in more compassionate and respectful care.

Supporting Supervision

The cyclical process of reflection provides a solid foundation for supervision. It allows supervisors to guide you effectively. By reflecting on your experiences, supervisors can offer targeted advice and support.

Practical Tips for Effective Reflection

Keep a Reflective Journal

Writing down your thoughts can help organise your reflections. Note what happened, your feelings, and what you learnt. Over time, you’ll see patterns and areas needing improvement.

Use Structured Models

Choose a reflective model that suits you. Whether it’s Kolb’s, Gibbs’, or Johns’, following a structured format can make your reflections more effective. These models provide a clear roadmap for reflection.

Seek Feedback

Don’t reflect in isolation. Discuss your reflections with colleagues or supervisors. They can offer insights you might have missed.

Reflect Regularly

Make reflection a regular part of your routine. Set aside time each week to think about your experiences. This consistency ensures continuous improvement.

Be Honest with Yourself

Reflection requires honesty. Acknowledge your mistakes and areas for improvement. This honesty is crucial for real growth.

Challenges in Reflection

Time Constraints

Finding time for reflection can be challenging in a busy care environment. Prioritise short, regular reflection sessions rather than waiting for long, infrequent ones.

Emotional Barriers

Sometimes, reflecting on difficult experiences can be emotionally challenging. It’s important to approach these reflections with a supportive mindset. Seek help if needed.

Lack of Structure

Unstructured reflections can lead to vague insights. Using a structured model helps ensure your reflections are thorough and meaningful.

Example answers for unit 2.1 Explain the cyclical process of reflection

As a lead practitioner, using the cyclical process of reflection allows you to continuously refine your practices, improve team dynamics, and enhance the quality of care provided.

Below are detailed examples from each stage of the cyclical process, focusing on your role.

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle

Concrete Experience

Example: Implementing a New Daily Routine for Clients

You decided to change the daily routine for the clients in your care by introducing morning exercise sessions. This is your starting point – the concrete experience.

Reflective Observation

Example: Assessing the Implementation

After a week of the new routine, you observe that while some clients enjoy the exercise sessions, others seem disengaged or even resistant. You took note of the varying levels of participation and enthusiasm.

Abstract Conceptualisation

Example: Theorising Difficulties

You theorise that the disinterest might be due to the types of exercises chosen. Perhaps they are too strenuous or not aligned with the interests and physical capabilities of all clients. You also consider that the time of day might be a factor.

Active Experimentation

Example: Modifying the Routine

You decide to vary the exercises, offering both gentle and more energetic options to cater to different needs. You also try moving the sessions to a later time in the morning to see if participation improves.

Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle


Example: Conducting a Difficult Family Meeting

You held a meeting with the family of a client to discuss a sensitive issue regarding the client’s deteriorating health. The family was understandably emotional and concerned.


Example: Emotional Response

During the meeting, you felt nervous about managing the family’s emotional responses and stressed about delivering delicate information.


Example: Assessing Actions

You reflect that you managed to keep the conversation respectful and empathetic. However, you felt you could have been more prepared with information to address their concerns.


Example: Identifying Learning Points

You realise that while your communication was kind, the meeting could have been more structured. Having prepared more detailed information and having a plan for addressing sensitive questions might have alleviated some stress.


Example: Improving Future Meetings

Next time, you conclude that preparation is key. Ensuring you have all the necessary information at hand and possibly a colleague to support during emotionally charged meetings could be beneficial.

Action Plan

Example: Planning for Future Improvement

For future meetings, you plan to:

  1. Gather all relevant information beforehand.
  2. Prepare a structured agenda.
  3. Have a colleague present to provide additional support.
  4. Follow up with the family shortly after the meeting to address any lingering concerns.

Johns’ Model for Structured Reflection

Description of the Experience

Example: Managing Staff Conflict

Two team members had a disagreement over the care approach for a client with dementia. You had to step in to mediate and resolve the conflict.

Reflecting on Action

Example: Examining Actions

  • What was I trying to achieve?
    I aimed to resolve the conflict and ensure the client’s care remained uninterrupted.
  • Why did I do what I did?
    I wanted to address the issue promptly to prevent it from escalating.
  • How might my actions have impacted the team members involved?
    My efforts likely made them feel heard and valued, but one might have felt more supported than the other.

Influencing Factors

Example: Contextual Considerations

The conflict occurred at the end of a long shift, when everyone was tired and perhaps less patient. This timing likely influenced the intensity of the disagreement.

How Could I Have Improved?

Example: Recognising Improvement Areas

I could have given the team members more time to cool down before mediating the conflict. Additionally, I could have sought input from both individuals separately before bringing them together.


Example: Extracting Lessons

From this experience, I learnt the importance of timing in conflict resolution and the value of giving individuals space to process their emotions before addressing the issue directly.

Practical Implementation Tips for a Lead Practitioner

Incorporating Reflection into Team Meetings

Use team meetings to encourage group reflection. Ask team members to share experiences and reflections on recent shifts. This fosters a culture of continuous improvement and shared learning.

Personal Reflective Journals

Encourage your team to keep reflective journals. Lead by example by maintaining your own and sharing insights that have helped you grow.

Regular Feedback Sessions

Schedule regular feedback sessions with your team. Use these sessions not only to give feedback but also to reflect collectively on what’s working well and what can be improved.

Training and Workshops

Organise workshops focused on reflective practices. Provide training on how to use different reflective models, enhancing the overall capacity of your team to engage in meaningful reflection.

Utilise Technology

Use digital tools designed for reflective practice. Apps and online platforms can help structure and document reflections efficiently.


Engaging in the cyclical process of reflection as a lead practitioner is crucial. It aids in personal growth, enhances team dynamics, and improves the quality of care provided. By consistently implementing reflective practices, you ensure continuous improvement in your professional life and that of your team. These examples illustrate how structured reflection can directly benefit your practice and lead to better outcomes for the clients in your care.


Reflection is a powerful tool for professional and personal development in adult care. By engaging in the cyclical process of reflection, you continuously improve your practice, ensure high-quality care, and contribute to your overall growth.

Whether you use Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, or Johns’ Model, the key is to be consistent, honest, and structured in your approach. By doing so, you not only enhance your skills but also positively impact the lives of those you support.

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