Reflection in action

What is it?

A conscious effort to think about an activity or incident that allows us to consider what was positive or challenging and if appropriate plan how it might be enhanced, improved or done differently in the future.

Why is it important?

For lots of reasons but one of the important things about reflection is that we can think about, plan and deliver high quality and safe care to our patients/clients.

Principles of reflection

Do something – think about it (what was good or bad) – think about how it might impact on your future practice – carry out the new practice ………. And its starts again …. Sometimes you will hear people talking about reflecting ON action or reflecting IN action.

Reflection in action means to think about or reflect while you are carrying out the activity. It is typical when something is going wrong or you are nervous about something new or out of the ordinary and you cannot help yourself thinking about it, but practitioners rarely formalise the process.

Reflection on action, however, means thinking about the practice undertaken after the event and turning that information into knowledge.

Different models

You will see from other resources in here that there are many different frameworks or models of how to reflect. The most popular ones are:

Please feel free to use one that you feel most comfortable with.

A simple one you might like to choose is based on Borton’s 1970 Framework Guiding Reflective Activities – What? So What? Now What?

The questions are prompts that you can use to aid your reflection.

What: This is the description and self-awareness level and all questions start with the word what.

  • what have I learnt?
  • what did I hope to learn?
  • what surprised me?

So what: This is the level of analysis and evaluation when we look deeper at what was behind the experience.

  • so what is the importance of this learning?
  • so what more do I need to know about this?
  • so what have I learnt about this?
  • so what was different to what I knew previously?

Now what: This is the level of synthesis. Here we build on the previous levels these questions to enable us to consider alternative courses of action and choose what we are going to do next.

  • now what can I do?
  • now what do I need to do?
  • now what might I do to improve or enhance the care I give to my patients?
  • now what might be the consequences of this action?

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