Gibbs Reflective Cycle 

Gibbs Reflective Cycle 

Gibbs reflective cycle blog picture
Gibbs reflective cycle blog picture
Holly Melvin
4th Year Medical Student at The University of Manchester, Instagram account: @that.girl.medic
November 29, 2021

What is reflection

Reflection is how we process what has happened to us/around us or because of us. We reflect all the time on things, sometimes without even thinking about them. The Gibbs Reflective Cycle is a tool to help you with reflection.

Questions such as why did it happen, what did I do to make it better, who is responsible, and what would I want to do differently are all examples of reflective questions. Reflection is really important, as it allows us to take time to learn from what has happened and what we have done, which in turn allows us to do better next time. 

As a medical student and doctor, reflection is incredibly important, so if you can get a good understanding and start developing your reflective skills now, you will be in great stead to progress and build on this. 

In this article, we will cover the Gibbs reflective cycle, which is used in reflective writing practice. I have also included some extra reading at the end that you might like to work your way through. As with all extra reading, it is worth taking notes as you go along so that you can use them in your personal statement and in medical school interviews. You can read more about reflection in our Reflection Guide here. 

Gibbs Reflective Cycle – Summary

  • It’s a framework for reflective writing
  • It has 6 stages including:
  • Description
  • Feelings
  • Evakuation 
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion
  • Action Plan

What is the Gibbs Reflective Cycle?

Gibbs reflective cycle is a framework that you can use to help structure your reflective writing. What is good about Gibb’s reflective cycle is that it helps you to learn and plan from things that either went well or didn’t go well. 

Gibbs Reflective Cycle has six different stages to it, which are:


This means a description of the experience, e.g. a short story about what happened. It should include details such as when and where the experience happened, people present (for example, you, patients and health care professionals you were shadowing), what you and the other people did, the outcome of the situation, why you were there (e.g. for your work experience/volunteering) and what you wanted to happen.


Next, you should describe your feelings and thoughts that you have about the experience. Things to include in this section are how you were feeling during the situation, how you were feeling before and after the situation, how do you think other people were feeling about the situation at the time and about the situation now (when it has potentially been resolved /escalated), what you were thinking during the situation and what do you think about the situation now.

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Evaluate the experience, including both the good and the bad things and what you and other people added to the situation both positively and negatively (in terms of actions taken/words spoken/decisions made).


Make sense of the situation and everything that happened and why it happened. This should include what went well, what didn’t go well, and what information (from reading, your own learning or things that other people have taught you) you can use to properly analyse the situation and understand why things may have happened the way they did.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle


Think about what you learned and what you could have done differently. This is a brief summary of what happened, and most importantly, a chance for you to state what you have gained and learnt from the experience (this is a super important part to remember for your personal statement writing and for medical school interviews, if you can’t show evidence of this type of reflective thinking, you are unlikely to secure yourself a place at medical school).

Action plan

Probably the most important part. This shows how you would deal with similar situations in the future or general changes you might want to make. For example, you could include reading up about certain conditions or additional training you might want to undertake (e.g. at your place of volunteering so you’re better equipped to deal with this situation in the future). What would be really great is if you could include in your personal statement ]/during your interview, how you acted upon your action plan and how this changed things for you, as this would show to universities how much of a motivated and committed individual you are.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle – Conclusion

In conclusion, reflective writing is a very important part of the process of applying to medical school. The Gibbs Reflective Cycle provides a good framework to base your reflective writing around, and if you work through each step properly, you will create an insightful, reflective piece. 


These are a few reliable sources I decided to include for you in case you want to read more about the Gibbs Reflective Cycle. Some of these sources are longer and more detailed than others, so if you think you don’t have enough time to read all of them, maybe just read one or two of the shorter resources to at least strengthen your knowledge and understanding of reflective practice a little bit. 


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