Four Levels of Reflection – Jenny Moon

Jenny Moon describes reflection as a “form of mental processing”, and so looks at reflection as four different stages. She focuses on writing reflection, although this is only an example – reflection can take place in a variety of other ways, such as verbal, and just within the mind. She says that “when we represent learning in writing (for example), in a sense it becomes new material of learning and we can reinforce the learning or check our understanding of it, using it as a feedback system.” This shows that reflection is key to the learning process.



The first stage of Moon’s model is called ‘descriptive writing’. This is more of an account than a reflection – there is little evidence of reflective practice, if at all, and it comes across more as a story than an exploration. The writing will be very one-sided, and won’t include any questioning or alternative perspectives. Generally the account will also be linked by the specific sequence of events, rather than the meaning behind any of them.

The second stage is called ‘descripting writing, some reflection’. This is a bit more efficient than the first stage in that there is some reflection involved, although it is very limited. The reflection will be hinted at but there most likely won’t be any analysis, and it won’t really go into much depth. It is likely that a need for explanation will be mentioned during the reflection, but it will be left there. Questions may be asked, but they certainly won’t be answered. Emotions could potentially come into play within this type of reflection, although the subject won’t be dwelled on much.

The third stage is ‘reflective writing (1)’. This is a more in-depth reflection, although still not fully efficient. This type of reflection is still descriptive, but is a lot more focused on actually reflecting on the experience, and typically features a lot more analysis than the previous stage. There will be elements of self-questioning present, as well as recognising emotions and the effects that the experiences have on the self. Alternative perspectives will sometimes also be mentioned here.

The fourth and most efficient stage of Moon’s reflection model is ‘reflective writing (2)’. This is where the reflective practice is really thorough, and brings great benefit to the reflector. As with the previous stage, self-questioning, multiple perspectives, and deep reflection will all be present, but they will be enhanced. The reflection will take a metacognitive stance, meaning that the reflector will have a certain awareness of their own thinking and reflecting. It will be clear that the reflection is being undertaken from a removed perspective, and observations of learning being gained will be made.


A big positive for Moon’s model is that it shows a comprehensive, step-by-step process going from a simple account to a full-blown reflection. This is particularly helpful for people who need to learn how to reflect in the first place, as it shows how one can gradually include everything they need to within their reflections. It makes it very easy for one to identify what level of reflection they are currently at, and what they need to do to move onto the next stage.

Another positive is that it takes emotions into account very heavily. Moon acknowledges that emotions and feelings are crucial to the reflection process, unlike other models that seem to view emotions as something that can be slotted in if you feel like it. One can’t be at a higher level of reflection within this model unless they are using their emotions and feelings within their reflective practice, and so this is really good to help coax that emotion out of people that may otherwise avoid it.


There is one main negative of the model as well. Stage four is clearly the most comprehensive and desirable type of reflection, and so gives people something to work towards. However, it implies a lot of time, effort, and overall commitment in order to get there, which is something that a lot of professionals just don’t have all of the time. This could potentially put people off of reflective practice – they may not want to bother at all as they could feel like stage four just isn’t attainable for them. It could also be an issue for those that can only manage to fit small reflections in – they will identify themselves as a lesser reflector, and so this could dent their confidence somewhat.


If you are really serious about improving your own practice within your career, then this is a really great model to use – although, of course, it will take some time. Get into a routine with this one, and see how it impacts your professional practice for the better.


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