Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle and Learning

Gibbs’ ‘Learn by Doing’


Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle and Learning

Graham Gibbs, a sociologist and psychologist, conducted a study called ‘Learn by Doing.’ It is about encouraging people to think systematically, about experiences they had during a specific situation, event or activity.  Gibbs’ ‘Reflective Cycle’ and Learning study helps to implement ‘Learn by Doing.’ He created a circle model which is structured in phases. It breaks down the experience, allowing one to reflect upon their experiences as they happen.


Gibbs states that by reflecting on your learning experience, it allows you to better your performance as it is happening, as well as improving it for the future.


Without this reflection on your own learning, it is therefore difficult to improve for next time. He says that it is hard to learn just by experiencing the situation/event/activity, so in order to fully learn and progress, this reflection is vital.


From the reflection, using the ‘Reflective Cycle,’ you can take away key concepts from the experience, as well as recognising what went well and evaluating what could be improved.



Reflective Cycle:


  1. Description

The first step of the Reflective Cycle is to describe the learning process in detail.

It is important to ask the questions:

  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • Who was there?
  • What did you do?
  • What was the result of the process?



  1. Feelings

Reflect upon what was thought and felt during the process.

Ask yourself:

  • How did you feel before the process?
  • What did you feel while it was taking place?
  • How were you feeling afterwards?
  • How do you think the other participants felt?
  • Has your view of the process changed afterwards?



  1. Evaluation

Now it’s time to evaluate the experience. Was is successful? If not, then why? Is it important to be objective in this step, in order to be fair in the process’ evaluation.

Answer these questions:

  • What was successful during the activity?
  • Why did these certain elements go well?
  • What didn’t go well?
  • What did you contribute?
  • How did others contribute?
  1. Analysis

This stage is about assessing what went well from the experience. This will allow for the same successes to be repeated in future. It is also important to assess the downfalls, ask why this was unsuccessful and learn from this for similar future situations. This ensures that the whole experience is analysed and assessed fully.

  1. Conclusion

The conclusion evaluates the process as a whole, and asks what else could have been done to improve it.

Ask these questions:

  • Where are the results like from the experience?
  • How could this be better for everyone involved?
  • What will be done differently next time, to improve the experience?
  • What personal skills can be improved in future?


Gibbs’ ‘Learning by Doing’ is a way to actively self-assess and evaluate the learning process. Gibbs’ ‘Reflective Cycle’ and Learning study allows for reflection on the experience as a whole, rather than completing an activity purely for the sake of passing. The learner must commit to the learning process, whilst reflecting upon the successes and downfalls during and after the process. The Reflective Cycle allows the learner to do this by breaking the process down in 5 steps. Through analysing the process as a whole by identifying each step and applying it to the process. This process aims to help learners better their experience as it happens, as well as improving on themselves for future.


Click here for more information on Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle.

For other learning strategies, why not read our blog about metacognition?