Gibbs reflective cycle

Reflective learning

What is reflective learning?

PDP is based on the theory of reflective learning, which emphasises that learning derives from our experiences and can be constantly updated through the process of recording and thinking about the experiences we have. A very important aspect of reflective learning is that it is a process in which we can learn about ourselves. Gibbs’ reflective cycle identifies 6 stages of reflection which help students to make sense of their learning experiences.

In higher education and graduate employment high value is placed on the skill of being a reflective learner. This means that students can:

  • critically evaluate their learning
  • identify areas of their learning that require further development
  • make themselves more independent learners

How can I improve my reflective learning capacity?

We all reflect naturally from time to time on things that happen to us. PDP makes this process more formal. Often students are required to write their reflections in the form of a blog or reflective report. This encourages a habit in students which is deemed to be useful in becoming a more reflective learner.
A useful starting point for reflection is to identify a ‘critical incident’ (Brookfield 1987) this doesn’t have to be a dramatic event it merely has to have triggered a series of thoughts which result in the student learning something new about themselves.


What are the benefits of reflective learning?

  • Record your development
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses
  • Understand how you learn
  • Develop self-awareness
  • Plan your own development
  • Learn about yourself
  • Articulate your skills/learning to others
  • Learn from your mistakes

More information

Here is some more information for students on reflective learning.


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Last Updated: 27/06/2012