Reflection involves thinking critically about an experience so that you can to learn from it. There are lots of options available for how you go about reflecting. These include the types of experiences you choose to reflect on, how you record your reflections, and the questions you consider when reflecting. They also include whether you follow the structure provided by a reflective model, or enlist the help of someone else to support you in the process.
Because everyone learns differently, and what works for one person may not be the best option for someone else, we encourage you to experiment to see which approach works best for you. The following information and guidance has been provided to help you develop your reflection skills, and enhance your ongoing professional growth and development.
Experiences to reflect on
Different types of experiences can offer valuable learning if reflected on. Examples of experiences that you might choose to reflect on include:
- An everyday experience
- A new task or procedure
- Something that went well
- Something that did not go to plan
- Applying a theory in the workplace
- A situation that you felt uncomfortable about
- An aspect of patient management or care, e.g., a clinical procedure
- An interpersonal interaction, e.g., with a patient, student, or colleague
- A cultural or ethical question
Record an experience so you can reflect on it later
Some people find it helpful to record information about an experience so that they can reflect on it later. If you are recording an experience to reflect on later, consider including the following details:
- summary of the events
- facts related to the incident
- your immediate learning points
- your thoughts and feelings at the time
However, avoid including confidential information that may identify the people involved.
Formats for recording your reflection
People sometimes find it helpful to record their reflections in different formats. We encourage you to experiment to see which works best for you. Examples of formats for recording reflections include:
- Personal written forms, e.g., journals, diaries, use of reflection templates
- Audio or video records
- Visual forms: e.g., photos, mind maps, or drawings
- Social written forms: e.g., blogs, social media to share with wider audiences
Please note that written reflections are required for recertification audits by the Physiotherapy Board. We have provided a reflection template that can be used for this purpose.
- Reflection template (to download and use electronically)
- Reflection template (to print out and use in hard copy)
Questions to help you reflect
Beyond those contained in the Reflection template, the following questions may help you to reflect on an experience. We encourage you to experiment in your reflection by considering different questions.
- What did you do and why?
- What could have gone better?
- What went well?
- What factors could have contributed to this?
- How did this experience make you feel?
- What would you do differently, if anything, if faced with a similar situation again?
- Describe what you learnt from this experience
- What is your action plan resulting from this experience, if anything?
Models of reflection
Learning through reflection may be more powerful when you understand different models of reflection, because they provide structure to guide you through the process. There are many models of reflection available. We all learn in different ways. It is your reflection and your learning, so it is important to choose the model(s) that best works for you. We have provided information on four different models of reflection to assist you. Each model also provides questions to guide your reflection.
Involving other people
Other people can help you to reflect, or to reflect more deeply. You could involve other people when you reflect by working one-on-one (e.g., with a supervisor or mentor), or in a group reflection with colleagues or professional peers.
In order for these conversations to be reflective, they need to be supportive and constructive, and relate theory to practice. As well, they need to be purposeful - they are not just chats with no outcome. They should encourage critical thinking, new ways of thinking, and relate back to theory or to evidence-based practice. A template may be a useful way to guide your conversations to assist you to structure your thoughts and to encourage you to reflect deeply on your chosen experience. You could use PNZ's reflection template or professional relationships template for this, or develop your own.
A more formal approach to using critical support can be through the use of professional relationships, for example, clinical, professional, or cultural, supervision. We have provided information and guidance about professional relationships, including setting up and maintaining professional relationships.