Critical Reflection Cycle

The process commonly described as professional development typically focuses on near-term learning of specific skills or behavioural awareness. There is, however, a need to attend to and nurture the development of character and competence dimensions over a professional's lifetime – this is the drive toward excellence and exceptional performance.

The deliberate practice of critical reflection as a habit of mind creates a "virtuous cycle" of constant re-evaluation of perception and experience that identifies which dimensions (character or competence) have been engaged, and assess the effectiveness of that engagement. The insights arising from this discipline of self-awareness inform both what and how to improve professional practice and, ultimately, create personal satisfaction. 

Gibbs process cycle for critical reflection (adapted from Williams et al. (2000)1 and Sclater (2008)2).

Critical Reflection Cycle

Alternative Transcript

The Critical Reflection Cycle introduces questions that prompt a basic reflection situation which, in turn, promotes deeper reflections in evaluation, understanding, analysis, and development.

What dilemma did you experience?

Use your understanding to describe the experience in the context of your prior knowledge, feelings, or attitudes.

What was your reaction to the experience?

Re-evaluate/analyze your experience in relation to your prior knowledge, feelings, or attitudes.

What is the value of the experience?

Verify/confirm that your new knowledge, feelings, or attitudes about the experience are correct.

What is your new understanding of the experience?

Relate your description, analysis, and verification of the experience to gain new insights about your beliefs.

How will you approach the same experience in the future?

Indicate how the clarification of an issue, development of a skill, or resolution of a problem will affect future behaviour.


Williams, R., Sundelin, G., Foster-Seargeant, E., & Norman, G. (2000). Assessing the reliability of grading reflective journal writing. Journal of Physical Therapy Education Fall, 14(2), 23–26.

Sclater, N. (2008). Reflecting on reflection – Learning Innovation. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from