Cycle For Structured Debriefing – Gibbs

If you want an in-depth reflective practice that involves over colleagues then Gibb’s cycle for structured debriefing, which was published in 1988, covers this quite well. The cycle has seven different stages, which each contain a series of prompts. This works really well both individually and with a more experienced colleague, perhaps during a supervision.



Image sourced from Rachel’s Blog

The first stage is simply the description of what happened. The user should go over the experience and lay out the facts – judgements and feelings come later on after the experience has been fully recalled. In the second stage, reactions and feelings should be considered, with the user thinking about how they felt both overall and within each part of the experience.

During the third stage, judgements start to be made about the experience in the form of an evaluation. The user should consider what was good or bad about the experience from all points of view.

After the evaluation, analysis should take place. The user should start to bring ideas in from other experiences to brainstorm and analyse the experience that they are reflecting on. It is important to spend some time here, looking for patterns and themes and really thinking about what happened – not just on the surface but also on a deeper level.

Two types of conclusions follow these stages. Firstly, conclusions should be made in a general sense. Also, the user should make specific conclusions about their own ways of working and personal situations. It is important, however, to look at both of these separately.

Finally, a personal action plan should be made to wrap up the reflection session and help take the experience forward. The user should consider what steps they will take to show that they have progressed, and also what sorts of things they can do differently should the situation arise again. The user should come away with a sense of improvement within their own practice, and a better perspective of their working styles.


There are two positives that I have discovered for this model. Firstly, Gibbs takes both feelings and actions into account, whereas some of the other models do not. Although experiences are physical and made up of actions, feelings are also incredibly important, as these dictate what actions we take. By understanding our feelings in a situation, we can get a better idea of how it affected us and whether we feel certain improvements are needed or not. Both feelings and actions are intertwined, and so reflecting on both really is key to gaining something from reflective practice.

Another positive is that the model is also very practical. Although quite extensive, the process really helps to create practical solutions to any issues or problems, which can then easily be applied to future situations and working practices. This is particularly beneficial as it means that both user and client can really benefit from taking the time to reflect in such a way.


However, there is one negative – the process is very long, and could potentially be seen as not worth doing by some. Although it is a great model to apply to a situation, having to use up this time and energy after every situation that needs reflecting on could prove laborious, which may either mean people complete a watered down, less effective version, or they don’t bother with it altogether. This would be a shame as, when used properly, some very good results could occur.



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