Reflective Practice

Effective learning is not just about attending a courses and conferences, it requires you to reflect on your practise and integrate new information where it is relevant to improve your practice. It may include:

  • Self-assessment of practice / competence in a given situation to identify areas for development and ultimately improve competence
  • Looking for learning points within the scenario or situation on which you reflect and considering how you might apply that learning in other situations to further enhance performance
  • Identifying learning / development needs e.g. as part of the CPD cycle and planning to meet these in order to improve practice
  • Changing or modifying practice in response to the learning undertaken

There are three types of reflection:

Reflection in Action: Reflection-in-action is the ability to conduct such reflection not only after the experience, but also during the experience – the ability to think on your feet, to understand what is happening and why, and to deal with the uncertainties of practice in situations.

  • Thinking one step ahead (oh good, if that's happened the next thing is to... )
  • Being critical (no, not there, try just here…)
  • Storing experience for the future (I could have said that better - next time...)
  • Analysing (she's saying that to test me out - better respond cautiously here) etc.

Structured Reflection: Structure reflection involves systematically moving through one or all of the following:

  • What happened?
  • Identifying significant events/incidents?
  • How did you feel, think, feel, and do?
  • What assumptions, beliefs, customs, or values underlie the event?
  • What were the environmental demands?
  • What are the implications for future practice?
  • What was learned?
  • What could be changed?
  • What concepts/assumptions could be challenged?

Informal Reflection: Most of us engage in reflection activities without even being aware that we are, in activities such as:

  • Talking over a situation you have found difficult with a partner, friend or colleague e.g. a difficult patient, a treatment that isn’t working etc. 
  • Thinking over the events of the day on the way home.

These activities however often tend to lack a focus on change or learning points. Try in improve the effectiveness of informal reflection by including a ‘what will I change/improve’ question in your discussion.


Making Time for Reflection

Becoming a reflective practitioner requires time, practice, and an environment supportive to the development and organisation of the reflection process. This is a highly individualized process and you should find the structure and method of reflection that best you.

Some examples of reflective practice options include:

When Where How
Immediately after the experience
At the end of the day
During my planning time
First thing in the morning
Wednesday during my lunch 
In my office
At home
In the shower
On the way to work


On the computer
Reflective journaling
Sticky notes
Reflection sheets
Verbal reflection with peer


Reflective Practice & You

  • What types of reflection do you typically engage in?
  • When, where and how do you engage in reflection?
  • How can you make time for reflective practice?


Useful Resources