Reflective Learning – Boud, Keogh & Walker

Boud, Keogh, and Walker came up with a model of reflecting learning in 1985 that can be used to help reflect on one’s own practice. It looks at reflection as an activity, in which a professional can really take a step back and evaluate their own practice in a way that helps them to learn from it in the future. Once they have reflected over their activity, they can then go on to achieve various outcomes that will aid their working practice. Careers advisors may find this model particularly useful to help evaluate and improve their own practice when working with their clients.


Image sourced from MIRROR Project

There are three aspects to the model, which start from the experience taking place. During the experience, the advisor will experience behaviours, ideas, and feelings. Once the experience has happened, they will reflect on it by returning to the experience within their minds. Various points should be dwelled upon, such as what positive feelings can be felt about the experience, and what negative feelings are obstructing progression from taking place. Once these have been established, the negative feelings should be removed, and the positive feelings should be utilised within the reflection for future experiences. The advisor can then re-evaluate their experience and draw more from it.

An example could be an appointment that an advisor has had with a client that didn’t go particularly well. First of all, the advisor should think about how they felt – why they felt it didn’t go well, and what sorts of behaviours both themselves and the client were exhibiting. They should then move on to focusing on the positives, and removing the negative feelings that were perhaps making them feel uncertain about the whole experience. Once they have identified the positives that were hiding underneath the negatives then they are able to see how they did manage to help the client, and how it wasn’t so bad after all. This can then lead to an application of learning for the next foreseeable appointments, now that they can see what behaviour was causing the issues, and what behaviour was actually helping.


The main positive for this model is the outcomes that it can lead to. This reflection can lead to changed behaviours within the advisor, which will greatly benefit their work. They can develop new or altered perspectives that perhaps had been clouded by negative thoughts before, which can then lead to a stronger readiness and commitment to the work. This entails that the advisor becomes more aware of their own working practices, and so much more successful.

Another positive is that it is a model that focuses on emotions, rather than just the situation at hand. Although logic is important, intuition can play a big part in an advisor’s work, and so it shouldn’t be ignored. This model allows the advisor to listen to their feelings and separate then as helpful and unhelpful, which then leads to clarity of mind. Once the clarity is accomplished, future situations can then be altered and improved.


However, there are a couple of negatives to the model that should be taken into account. Cinnamond and Zipher claim “they constrain reflection by turning it into a mental activity that excludes both the behavioural element and dialogue with others involved in the situation.” Although it can be adapted to be used alongside other colleagues, it is exceedingly introspective, and feels easier to involve others once the reflection has taken place, which is not necessarily as helpful.

Following on from this, it also treats reflection as a stand-alone, deliberate activity, rather than the natural activity that perhaps it should be viewed as. With it feeling so forced, it can also lead to people not taking it seriously – sometimes, when we have to complete an activity, our willingness disappears. If it were to be communicated as a natural habit after all situations within work, then it might be easier for an advisor to process the entirety of the activity within their mind. I have found from personal experience that reflection works better as a way of life, and so this is something that needs to be considered before forcing such an activity upon yourself.



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