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Reflection Models

Models, or frameworks for reflection, provide a guide meant to structure the reflection process. Here are a few models, some with very similar processes.



DEAL: Describe, Examine, and Articulate Learning

Ash & Clayton (2009) define critical reflection as “evidence based examination of the sources of and gaps in knowledge and practice with the intent to improve on both (p. 28).” They represent their approach in the DEAL model:  Describe, Examine, and Articulate Learning. 


icon deal model

Describe a SL related experience (objectively and in some detail)

  • When did this experience take place? Where did it take place?
  • Who else was there? Who wasn’t there?
  • What did I / we say or otherwise communicate?
  • Who didn’t speak or act?

Examine that experience (academic learning)

  • What specific academic material is relevant to this experience? Explain the concept, theory, etc clearly and concisely so that someone unfamiliar with it could understand it
  • How did the material emerge in the experience (When did I see it or note its absence? How did or should I or someone else use it?)?
  • What academic (e.g., disciplinary, intellectual, professional) skills did I use / should I have used? In what ways did I / others think from the perspective of a particular discipline and with what results?
  • In what specific ways are my understanding of the material or skill and the experience the same and in what specific ways are they different? What are the possible reasons for the difference(s) (e.g., bias, assumptions, lack of information on my part or on the part of the author / instructor / community?)

Articulate Learning

“I learned that” …

  • Express an important learning, not just a statement of fact
  • Provide a clear and correct explanation of the concept(s) in question so that someone not in the experience could understand it.
  • Explain your enhanced understanding of the concept(s), as a result of reflection on the experience
  • Be expressed in general terms, not just in the context of the experience (so that the learning can be applied more broadly to other experiences)

“I learned this when” ….

  • Connect the learning to specific activities that gave r ise to it, making clear what happened in the context of that experience so that someone who wasn’t there could understand it.
  • “This learning matter s because” …
  • Consider how the learning has value, both in terms of this situation and in broader terms, such as other organizations, communities, activities, issues, professional goals, courses, etc.

“In light of this learning” …

  • Set specific and assessable goals; consider the benefits and challenges involved in fulfilling them
  • Tie back clearly to the original learning statement.

Ash, S. L., & Clayton, P. H. (2009). Generating, deepening, and documenting learning: The power of critical reflection for applied learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, 1(1), 25-48.

What? So what? Now what? Model

 Rolfe et al.’s (2001) reflective model, based around Borton's 1970 developmental model, is comprised of three primary questions: What? So what? Now what?

icon of Rolfe's model


What happened? What did you observe?
What was your role at the community site?
What issue is being addressed or population is being served?
What were your initial expectations?
Why does this organization exist?
What learning occurred for you in this experience?

So What?

Did you learn a new skill or clarify an interest?
Did anything about your community involvement surprise you? If so, what? How is your experience different from what you expected?
What impacts the way you view the situation/experience? (What lens are you viewing from?)
What did you learn about the people/community?
What are some of the pressing needs/issues in the community?
How does this project address those needs?
How did the experience relate to your coursework?
Has your understanding of the community changed as a result of your participation in this project? If so, how?
Talk about any disappointments or successes of your project. What did you learn from it?

Now What?

How can you apply what you learned from your experience?
What would you like to learn more about, related to this project or issue?
What would you like to learn more about, related to this project or issue?
What follow-up is needed to address any challenges or difficulties?
What information can you share with your peers or the community?
If you could do the project again, what would you do differently?
Have your career options been expanded by your service experience?
How can you continue your involvement with this group or social issue?

Adapted from: Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory

Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory is a combination of a learning cycle comprised of 4 process (al;dsfjdlj) and 4 learning styles.

icon for kolb model


Learning Styles

  • Diverging (concrete, reflective) - Emphasizes the innovative and imaginative approach to doing things. Views concrete situations from many perspectives and adapts by observation rather than by action. Interested in people and tends to be feeling-oriented. Likes such activities as cooperative groups and brainstorming.
  • Assimilating (abstract, reflective) - Pulls a number of different observations and thoughts into an integrated whole. Likes to reason inductively and create models and theories. Likes to design projects and experiments.
  • Converging (abstract, active)- Emphasizes the practical application of ideas and solving problems. Likes decision-making, problem-solving, and the practical application of ideas. Prefers technical problems over interpersonal issues.
  • Accommodating (concrete, active) - Uses trial and error rather than thought and reflection. Good at adapting to changing circumstances; solves problems in an intuitive, trial-and-error manner, such as discovery learning. Also tends to be at ease with people.

Kolb, David A. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1984

Gibbs’ Model of Reflection

There are several reflection models that you can use to implement in your course. Below is Gibb’s Framework for Reflection as an example of a reflective framework. Other reflection models are provided on our website.

icon for gibbs model

The Gibbs’ (1988) Reflective Cycle. In this model, there are 6 stages:

1) Description: what happened?

  • What, where and when did this happen?
  • What did you do/read/see hear?
  • In what order did things happen?
  • What were the circumstances?
  • What were you responsible for?
  • What was the result of the situation?

2) Feelings: what were you thinking?

  • What was your initial reaction, and what
  • does this tell you? Did your feelings change?
  • What were you thinking?
  • What did you feel during / after the situation?
  • What do you think about it now?

3) What was good or bad about the experience?

  • What went well?
  • What were the challenges?
  • Who/what was unhelpful? Why?
  • What did you and others do to contribute to the situation (positively or negatively)?
  • What needs improvement?

4) Analysis: what sense can you make of the situation?

Break the event down into its component parts so they can be explored separately. You may need to ask more detailed questions about the answers to the last stage.

Compare theory and practice. What similarities or differences are there between this experience and other experiences? Think about what actually happened. What choices did you make and what effect did they have?

  • What went well?
  • What did you do well?
  • What did others do well?
  • What went wrong or did not turn out how it should have done?
  • In what way did you or others contribute to this?

5) Conclusion: what else could you have done?

  • During this stage you should ask yourself what you could have done differently.
  • What were the factors that affected the outcome?
  • What might have been some alternative actions or approaches?
  • What might you have done differently (even when things went well)?
  • Could negative events be avoided?
  • Could positive events be made more effective?

6) Action plan: what will you do next time?

  • If a similar situation arose again, what would you do?
  • What will you do if you encounter this kind of situation again?
  • What will you do in the future to increase the likelihood of similar positive outcomes and minimize the likelihood of similar negative outcomes?
  • What do you need to learn?

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford Further Education Unit, Oxford.




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