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There are many definitions in the literature of reflection, most however agree that it is an active, conscious process Reflection is often initiated when the individual practitioner encounters some problematic aspect of practice and attempts to make sense of it.

Dewey (1933) defined reflection as:
An active persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends. Dewey worked as an educationalist and developed his concept of reflective practice and reflection through experiential learning theories. He concluded in his work that the experience the individual lives through can be described as a dynamic continuum – and that each experience influences the quality of future experiences. Boud – the learner’s point of view

Boud et al (1985) take a different perspective and define it as: A generic term for those intellectual and effective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to a new understanding and appreciation. Boud and his co-writers view reflection from the learner’s point of view. They emphasise the relationship of the reflective process and the learning experience against what the learner can do. Schön – types of reflection

Schön (1987) in his work identifies two types of reflection; these are reflection-in-action (thinking on your feet) and reflection-on-action (retrospective thinking). He suggests that reflection is used by practitioners when they encounter situations that are unique, and when individuals may not be able to apply known theories or techniques previously learnt through formal education. Greenwood (1993), however, identifies weaknesses and inconsistencies in Argyris and Schön’s work as they fail to follow their own recommendations. This, she argues, has resulted in the implementation and prescription of dubious strategies for the promotion of what Schön refers to as enlightened professional artistry. Often formal education cannot answer the complex questions of clinical practice and there
remains a gap in knowledge gained.

Schön, however, argues that wisdom can be learnt by reflection on dilemmas that are encountered in practice and that by using reflection-on-action practitioners can continue to develop their practice. Reid (1993) in her definition also noted reflection as an active process rather than passive thinking. She states: Reflection is a process of reviewing an experience of practice in order to describe, analyse, evaluate and so inform learning about practice. Kemmis (1985) agrees with Reid that the process of reflection is more than a process that focuses ‘on the head’. It is, he argues, a positive active process that reviews, analyses and evaluates experiences, draws on theoretical concepts or previous learning and so provides an action plan for future experiences.

Johns (1995) notes that reflection enables the practitioner to assess, understand and learn through their experiences. It is a personal process that usually results in some change for the individual in their perspective of a situation or creates new learning for the individual. Reflection starts with the individual or group and their own experiences and can result, if applied to practice, in improvement of the clinical skills performed by the individual through new knowledge gained on reflection. Clamp (1980) noted that nurses’ attitudes largely govern how care is administered to their client and the commonest causes of poor care are ignorance and inappropriate attitudes. This process of reflection, if then related into practice, can assist the individual in gaining the required knowledge, leading to a potential improvement in the quality of the care received from that individual. The outcome of reflection as identified by Mezirow (1981) is learning. Louden (1991) describes in ordinary language reflection as:

Serious and sober thought at some distance from action and has connotations similar to “meditation” and “introspection “. It is a mental process which takes place out of the stream of action, looking forward or (usually) back to actions that have taken place. Source: Learning Journals and Critical Incidents by Tony Ghaye and Sue Lillyman http://www.trainer.org.uk/members/theory/process/reflection.htm Why Reflective Writing?

Health care practitioners are “doers”

Practice is about interacting with people, verbal communication embodies practice

“Deep” learning can only take place through reflection, otherwise habituated practice becomes predominant

Reflective Writing captures that “deep” learning

Reflective practice :

“We learn by doing and seeing what becomes of our actions”John Dewey (1933)

“A generic term for those intellectual and effective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to a new understanding and appreciation” Boud et al, (1985)

“Reflection is a process of reviewing an experience of practice in order to describe, analyse, evaluate and so inform learning about practice” Reid (1993)

Reflective writing is itself a process for learning

Reflective writing facilitates critical thinking skills

Reflection draws learning from experience

Reflection is not an end in itself; the outcome is that knowledge is created through the transformation of experience, so that we are ready for new experience

“Reflective practice is an active process whereby the professional can gain an understanding of how historical, social, cultural, cognitive and personal experiences have contributed to professional knowledge acquisition and
practice. An examination of such factors yields an opportunity to identify new potentials within practice, thus challenging the constraints of habituated thoughts and practices. The process of reflective practice can be guided by the use of a form of supervision. Through the exploration of individual and social behaviour and experiences, there is scope to gain insights to challenge and guide professional practice”

Wilkinson J (1966) Definition of reflective practice. In Hinchcliffe S (Ed) Dictionary of Nursing, 17th Ed, Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone

Dewey, J. 1933. How we think. Henrey Regney, Chicago: 9
Boud, D, Keough, R, Walker, D. 1985. Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning, Kogan Page, London: 19 Schon, D. 1987. Educating the Reflective Practitioner. Josey Bass, San Francisco Reid, B. 1993. “But we’re doing it already” Exploring a response to the concept of reflective practice in order to improve its facilitation. Nurse Ed Today 13: 305-309 Greenwood, J. 1993, Reflective Practice: A Critique of the Work of Argyris and Schon. J. Adv Nurs 21: 1044-1050 Kemmis, S. 1985, Action Research and the Politics of Reflection. In: Boud, D. et al (1985) Reflection Turning Experience into Learning. Kogan Page, London Johns, C. 1995, The Value of Reflective Practice for Nursing. J. Clinical Nurs. 4: 23-60 Clamp, C. 1980, Learning Through Critical Incidents Nurs Times Oct 2: 1755-1758 Mezirow, J. 1981, A Critical Theory of Adult Learning and Education. Adult Education 32: (1) 3-24 Louden, W. 1991, Understanding Teaching. Cassell, London: 14


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