It’s not my intention to give full information or an extensive discussion on every theory. This website is intended to be a starting point and the main difference with other websites is the visual representation of the theory, which I hope will help get to grips with the theory. There are also links it the bottom to get your further research started.
Gibbs’ Reflective Model
Graham Gibbs 1988
This model consists of the now familiar circle. Just like Kolb’s model, Gibbs’ model is an experiential learning model – learning from experiences that happened to you or around you. It’s familiar, if you have looked at other models, because from the last step, we move straight into a new experience which we can evaluate and reflect on in turn. There is only so much you can theorise about when it comes to building a model of reflection. As a result, this looks very similar to Kolb’s model. The difference is that Gibbs model explicitly focuses on feeling, though you can argue that Kolb does this implicitly. I would however argue that, although not impossible, unlike Kolb’s model, this is more difficult to use with clients in a career guidance or counselling context.
Gibbs’ model in practice
Gibbs’ model consists of 6 steps the learner can take post experience. I have added some questions and prompts next to each of the 6 steps, but these are not exhaustive and I’m sure other people will come up with different ones.
It looks as follows:
- Description: after the experience the learner has the opportunity to describe the experience in detail. This provides the material for the next two steps. The learner can describe:
- What happened – what where the steps to what happened or what was the causality in what happened?
- Where did it happen?
- What were the factors that made it happen?
- What was the end result to what happened?
- How does the learner feel about what happened now, and while the action was taking place?
- How did the other people who were present feel?
- What did the learner and other people present think at the time?
- Was it a positive or negative experience, generally? What impact did your emotions have?
- How did it impact on your values and how did your values impact on the action and its outcome?
- What was good and what was bad about the experience?
- Was the effect of your actions on what happened positive or negative? How?
- What went well and what didn’t go well?
- Analysis: this is more about why and how of the previous steps and the situation.
- Why did it go well or not well?
- How can it have been better or worse?
- Why did others and you act the way you or they did?
- How does it fit in with any theories?
- How does it fit in with previous, similar experience and why was it different this time?
- Conclusion: this revolves around ‘what’.
- What could you have done to make it different or to make a difference?
- What skills do you need to make it better next time?
- Action plan: this is a summary or list of what you can do better next time.
The last step will possibly lead to a new activity or experience, which in turn leads on to another cycle.
I think it is very clear how this can be put into practice, but how do you feel about this model, versus other models?
Gibbs’ model makes very good sense, as do other models of reflection.
- How would you feel you could use this, over other models?
- Do you feel this model suits you better as a person than other models? Why?
I feel preference or not for this model is very much down to personality. If you’re a person who function more on feelings, then this is a good model that can resonate well. Having said that, it is also a very rational approach to reflection or learning, as are the other models. Of course, rationality is part and parcel of the academic approach.
Gibbs himself related the model of experiential learning to learning styles, like Kolb did (Gibbs, 1988, p. 23, 24). He also proposes ways by which to put experiential learning into practice.
Even though there is an extra step or extra steps compared to other models, the prompts it offers are excellent for analysing, reflecting on, thinking about and learning from individual experiences.
As with all of these models however, experiences are rarely stand-alone events and there are many implications, influences and causalities at work. As with other models, it’s important to let go of those elements to the experience of activity we don’t have any control over and to take away only those things we can actively change.
Gibbs’ model is a well known model, so there are plenty of good resources out there. These are just a couple of the key ones I found:
- Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford. (can be found on https://thoughtsmostlyaboutlearning.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/learning-by-doing-graham-gibbs.pdf)