Last Updated: 27th August 2019

The importance of reflection in good competency evidence

The trainee’s ability to reflect on practice is really important. It will help them to progress and improve their practice.

‘It is not sufficient to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting on this experience, it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost.’ (Gibbs, 1988, p9).

Writing reflectively for the purpose of an assessment is not simply describing something that happened, nor is it everything you think and feel.  Being reflective means critically evaluating a task, a test or experience. And in many cases the reflection should seek to draw on standards and frameworks and guidance to evaluate the experience. The reflective grid, below, is designed to help trainees to produce reflective evidence about key events and experiences.

Before What are you planning to do? How does this meet your learning outcome? What are you hoping to learn?
During Describe what actually happened How did you feel about this? What do you think others felt? e.g. a patient or colleague
After Reflect on whether the event went as planned, including both negative and positive comments. What feedback did your training officer or assessor give you? What did you learn from this experience?
Next time What will you do differently next time? What changes will you need to make? What are the implications for others that you may work with?
Literature, standards, frameworks of good practice What do the frameworks and guidance say? How did the reality compare with them? What can you do to improve the process or procedure? What changes if any could you recommend?


Types of reflective writing

Trainees could:

  • Reflect on what could or did go wrong rather than provide evidence of everything ‘going perfectly’. For example, this could be a reflection on a patient interaction or an observation they have had.
  • Reflect on an adverse incident in the department. What procedures have been put in place to avoid this from happening again and is there anything else that could be done?
  • Reflect on visits to different departments or areas of practice; for example, producing a reflective account of a visit to A&E and of the practices observed there. Trainees could include mind maps and charts in this kind of account.
  • Use simulation to generate reflection. Simulations can be useful for events and situations that happen rarely.
  • Write a reflective piece on an event they attended.
  • Film a patient/trainee encounter (with patient consent) and afterwards the trainee could critically reflect on their performance, e.g. focusing on their communication skills and how they might be improved.
  • Produce a reflective summary of a discussion with their Training Officer: what was learned from this that will be put into practice in future events?

Further reading:

Books: Gibbs, G (1988). Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit, Oxford Polytechnic.

The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books. Williams, K, Woolliams, M and Spiro, J (2012). Reflective Writing. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.