Manisha is a retail manager at a popular fashion outlet in Pune. For an upcoming fashion exhibition, she’s been asked to order 10 boxes of scarves. Manisha places the order online and takes a short lunch break.

Four hours later, she receives an email from the vendor with a receipt for the order. On opening the receipt, her heart skips a beat. Instead of 10 boxes, the receipt reads 100 boxes of scarves! Manisha panics and hastily checks her order. Yes, it was 100 boxes instead of 10.

A dismayed Manisha writes an email apologizing for her error and canceling the extra 90 boxes of scarves she had mistakenly ordered. Later in the day, she gets an inevitable dressing-down from the general manager of the outlet, who informs Manisha that her carelessness will cost their organization a hefty fine, a part of which would be deducted from her next month’s salary.

All organizations have suffered losses because of human error, in spite of the best intentions of their employees. But the key to dealing with such mistakes is not regret or resentment; it’s reflection, something that’s aptly laid out in Gibbs’ reflective cycle.

  1. What Is Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle?

  2. Different Stages Of Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

  3. Stage 1—Description

  4. Stage 2—Feelings

  5. Stage 3—Evaluation

  6. Stage 4—Conclusions

  7. Stage 5—Action

What Is Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle?

Gibbs’ reflective cycle was developed by English professor Graham Gibbs in 1988. The goal of Gibbs’ reflective model is to lend a structure for learning from experiences, offering an efficient way for individuals and organizations to critically assess and improve themselves.

Different Stages Of Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle

Gibbs’ model for learning from experience consists of five stages, which are cyclical in nature. Let’s look at these five stages using Manisha’s aforementioned situation as an example of Gibbs’ reflective cycle.

  1. Stage 1—Description

The first stage in Gibbs’ reflective model is all about understanding what happened in detail without drawing any conclusions. This stage requires Manisha to recall everything that she remembers from the afternoon when she placed the wrong order. This includes asking the following questions:

  • When and where did this happen?

  • Why were you there?

  • Who else was there?

  • What happened?

  • What did you do?

  • What did other people do?

  • What was the result of this situation?

  1. Stage 2—Feelings

Next, Manisha must move to the second stage of Gibbs’ reflective cycle by explaining how she felt during her experience. This must be done with as much clarity as possible and with the help of the following queries:

  • What did you feel before this situation took place?

  • What did you feel while this situation took place?

  • What do you think other people felt during this situation?

  • What did you feel after the situation?

  • What do you think about the situation now?

  • What do you think other people feel about the situation now?

  1. Stage 3—Evaluation

The next step in Gibbs’ cycle requires Manisha to calmly analyze what worked for her during the situation—and what didn’t. To make the evaluation precise, Gibbs’ model recommends a few questions:

  • What was positive about this situation?

  • What was negative?

  • What went well?

  • What didn’t go so well?

  • What did you and other people do to contribute to the situation (either positively or negatively)?

  1. Stage 4—Conclusions

Having evaluated the situation properly, this stage of Gibbs’ learning cycle needs Manisha to draw conclusions from what happened based on the following questions:

  • How could this have been a more positive experience for everyone involved?

  • If you were faced with the same situation again, what would you do differently?

  • What skills do you need to develop, so that you can handle this type of situation better?

  1. Stage 5—Action

The last stage of Gibbs’ model of reflective practice is all about planning a course of action that allows Manisha to be much more effective in similar situations in the future. Such an action plan should involve the key insights that Manisha has obtained by answering all the questions posed in the previous stages of Gibbs’ learning cycle.

It’s not mandatory for Gibbs’ model of reflective practice to be executed solely by the person undergoing the experience. It can also be implemented by coaches, friends or colleagues, in association with the person concerned.

Gibbs’ reflective model is one of many exercises an organization can follow in order to coach its employees to learn from their experiences and grow into professionals who are capable of leadership, constant improvement and crisis management. Harappa’s High Performing Leaders program is all about optimizing these qualities. Our program can help your employees:

  • Navigate ambiguity, complexity and contradictory information

  • Communicate with impact

  • Build trust, master the art of persuasion and much more

In addition to Gibbs’ cycle, this program’s wide-ranging curriculum includes helpful concepts like Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, the GROW (Goals-Reality-Options-Will) model for coaching and SWOT analysis.

With more than 20,000 learners, a completion rate of 80%, and successful partnerships with organizations like IIFL, Tata Consultancy Services and Mahindra, Harappa’s program is your one-stop destination to help your employees master reflective learning and become better leaders.


Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as Who is a Project Manager, Must-Have Skills For Leadership, Top Behavioral Skills For Managers, Operational Manager Skills Managerial Roles And Skills that will help organizations tap into their employee’s potential.

Related articles

Discover more from Harappa with a selection of trending blogs on the latest topics in online learning and career transformation