This paper builds on my research into learning and reflection models and how they had been incorporated into business and coaching. At an early stage in my MSc in Coaching I researched three of the core learning models; Kolb’s “Four stages of Learning”, Schon’s reflective learning model and Gibb’s “Reflective Cycle”.

Kolb identified the Four stages of learning “Experiencing – Reviewing – Concluding – Planning” and stated that “Learning is a process whereby knowledge is created through Transformational experience”. Within the model individuals progress through the four stages to understand an experience and formulate a plan for the next time they encounter the experience. Saul McLeod observes that using the Kolb model “Effective learning only occurs when the learner completes all four stages of the model, therefore no one stage of the cycle is effective as a learning procedure on its own” which is a definite limitation of the model.

Gibbs’ “Reflective Cycle” contains six elements “Description – Feelings – Experience – Analysis – Conclusion – Action Plan”. This model builds on Kolb by adding the element of “Critical Reflection”, recognising in step two that your personal feelings and beliefs can influence the situation. Gibbs identifies that “it is not sufficient to have an experience in order to learn, without reflecting on the experience it may be quickly forgotten or its learning potential lost”. Having read and analysed both models I feel that they can be effective and transferable in different scenarios, with Kolb’s model potentially providing a faster learning loop and Gibbs adding greater depth and reflection into the learning process.

Schon developed a process that contributed to the development of reflection in learning. Schon believed that individuals, specifically professionals, learn from experience and reflection of the experience, either at the time – reflection-in-action – or after the experience – reflection-on-action.  Buwert observes that “reflection-in-action is to reflect on behaviour as it happens, whereas reflection-on-action is reflection after the event, to review, analyse and evaluate the situation”.

Based on my reading and research I think that individuals incorporate Gibb’s reflective Cccle or Kolb’s four stages of learning as part of Schon’s model. Clutterbuck identifies that “Schon argued that professional situations can be so complex and uncertain that professionals need to adapt in the moment to new situations”. Reflection-after-action and the extension of reflection-before-action enables individuals to prepare themselves for future scenarios based on previous experiences.

My research into Schon has created an awareness that individuals in multiple organisations and different functions have developed Schon’s model of reflection to continuously improve performance and decision making. Reflection-on-action becomes, reviewing or analysing the situation or what has happened, reflection-in-action becomes thinking on the spot and the introduction of reflection-before-action is scenario planning or in its purest form visualisation.

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Buwert, P. (2012). The Reflective Practitioner by Donald Schon. from

Cox, Bachkirova, & Clutterbuck. (2018). The Complete Handbook of Coaching. Sage (P468 & 469)

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

McLeod, S. (2017, October 24). Kolb – learning styles and experiential learning cycle. retrieved from website.

Smith, M. K. (2001, 2011). ‘Donald Schön: learning, reflection and change’, The encyclopaedia of pedagogy and informal education.