How to conduct effective Self-Reflection

December is the perfect time of year to reflect back on the last 12 months. If you are goal orientated, you’ll probably reflect regularly on your progress. Checking that you are on track and making sure milestones are being met.  There are several models of self-reflection. It is important that you select a process or model that works well and you are comfortable with implementing.  It’s a skill to conduct effective self-reflection. And, how to conduct effective self-reflection needs a process.

Here’s a couple of self-reflection models:

  • Graham Gibbs – Reflective Cycle.
  • Donald Schön – Reflection-in-action/Reflection-on-action.
  • David Kolb – Experiential Learning.

Reflective Cycle: 

  1. Description of the event: Describe in detail the event you are reflecting on. Include where you were, who else was there, why were you there, what were you doing, what were other people doing.  Also include the context of the event and what happened, what was your part in this and others, and the outcome or results.
  2. Feelings: At this stage try to recall and explore the things that were going on inside your head.  For example, why does this event stick in your mind? Include how you were feeling when the event started and what you were thinking about at the time.  How did it make you feel and do you know how other people felt?  Write down how you felt about the outcome of the event and what do you think about it now?
  3. Evaluation: Try to evaluate or make a judgment about what has happened. Consider what was good about the experience and what was bad about the experience or didn’t go so well.
  4. Analysis: Break the event down into its component parts, so they can be explored separately, the things that went well, and what you did well.  Consider what others did well, what went wrong, or didn’t turn out as expected or planned.  In what way did you or others contribute to the outcome or results?
  5. Conclusion: You now have a lot of information on which to base your judgment. It is here that you are likely to develop insight into your own and other people’s behaviour in terms of how they contributed to the outcome of the event.

How journaling can help with reflection

Keeping a journal can help you with the process of self-reflection. It will give you somewhere to record an accurate description and account of what happened during the week. Which is step 1 in the Gibbs model?

It will allow you to think about the activities of the week, consider whether you are on track, and delve deeper into the situation so that you can examine all aspects of events.

  • The act of writing up your activities and recording facts forces you to think through objectively what happened. Whether you write them down on paper or you use technology to get it all down doesn’t matter.
  • Once you’ve written up your activities and observations, you’ll be ready to consider the opportunities and learnings from events that week. And, then design and develop steps to strengthen or improve.
  • Keeping a journal ensures you take accountability and develop successful habits. The journal remains as a permanent record which will be good for annual appraisals or interviews you attend in the future and allows you to review how far you’ve progressed.

Journaling is an excellent way to aid the process of self-reflection. It will even help you create better goals because the process of entering facts in your journal will cause you to see them in a more logical way that is more useful.

Why is taking time out for Self-Reflection important?

Why is taking time out for Self-Reflection important?

Remember the purpose of reflection is to learn from experience.

During the analysis, you should ask yourself what you could have done differently.  Finally, to really learn from this experience you’ll need to take action.

Action plan: Plan what you would do if you encountered the event again. Would you act differently or would you be likely to do the same? How will this incident affect your future practice? What additional knowledge and skills do you need to develop?

Final thought

Learning through reflection is more effective if there is an understanding of the model. This encourages a structured process to guide the act of reflection. Various models have been developed which may suit individuals or particular situations. However, it is important that you select the model that best suits you and you feel most comfortable with. This will support learning from experience more effective. The type or combination of types may be used according to the requirements of the situation.