Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 4.1: Engage in professional development
Learning outcome: Understand theoretical perspectives in relation to reflection
Assessment criteria: Summarise theoretical perspectives on reflection in relation to professional development
Reflective practice is a process of constantly re-examining and critiquing one’s own actions and thoughts in order to improve practice.
It is an essential part of professional development in any field, but especially in Early Years settings, where best practices are constantly evolving. There are several different theoretical approaches to reflection, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Kolb’s learning cycle
Kolb’s experiential learning cycle is a widely-used framework for reflection. It consists of four stages.
1. Concrete experience
In the first stage of the cycle, a person has an experience that serves as the basis for observation. The individual encounters a new experience that creates a learning opportunity.
2. Reflective observation
In the second stage, the individual reflects on the experience before making judgments. The goal is for the individual to review the situation and find meaning behind the experience.
3. Abstract conceptualisation
In abstract conceptualization, the individual develops theories to explain their experience. The goal is to create concepts that they can apply in the future.
4. Active experimentation
In the final stage, individuals apply what they learned in the experience to another situation. The goal is to test the concepts in different and new situations to improve understanding and competence.
Gibbs’ learning cycle
Gibbs’ cycle is similar to Kolb’s, but it consists of six stages
In the first stage, the individual describes the experience. This stage is important in order to identify what happened.
The second stage is when the individual identifies and evaluates their feelings about the experience. This stage is important in order to understand what emotions were experienced and how they impacted the individual.
After describing and exploring their feelings, the individual evaluates the experience. They consider what was good and bad about the experience and what could have been done differently.
In this stage, the individual analyses the experience and looks for patterns and underlying causes. This stage is important in order to understand what happened and why it happened
In this stage, the individual reaches a conclusion about the experience. They synthesise their learning and decide what to do with that learning in the future.
6. Action plan
The final stage is when the individual decides what action to take in the future as a result of their learning. This stage is important in order to ensure that the learning is put into practice.
Other reflective models and theories
There are several other models and theories of reflective practice that you may wish to learn about. Check out our Comprehensive Guide to Reflective Practice.