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Reflective writing: Kolb

“Kolb shows how reflection on an experience leads the individual to form concepts about that experience, and to be able to generalise from one experience to another”

Williams et al., Reflective Writing

Kolb's Cycle of Reflective Practice

Kolb's (1984) cycle of reflective practice is a model designed to help people learn from their experiences. It can be used as a basis for the structure of a reflective essay, or as a way to structure your thinking. Kolb's model is based on four stages, requiring you to work through each one before the cycle leads to new experiences and loops back around.

1) Concrete Experience

This stage required you to experience something. When it comes to a written reflection, this step usually involves a description of your experience and your thoughts at the time.

2) Reflective Observation 

This stage required you to think about the experience. Here you will begin to actually reflect upon that experience. The emphasis is on you, your feelings and the links to your skills, knowledge and prior experience. 

3) Abstract Conceptualism 

This stage is all about learning from your experience. It required you to analyse and explain your reflection. Here you should focus on the meaning of your reflection and other possibilities. You can acknowledge both things that went well - and things that didn't. You may identity areas for further exploration.

4) Active Experimentation

This final stage is about putting your learning into practice. This is about translating your analysis and explanation into plans and actions moving forwards. You should ensure any goals set are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and targeted.

This stage is also about going off to have new experiences base on this learning - linking you back round to stage 1.

Model of Kolb's Cycle of Reflective Practice

Concrete Experience (experiencing something) Reflective Observation (thinking about an experience) Abstract Conceptualism (learning from experience) Active Experimentation (putting into practice a theory you have learned) - leading back to Concrete Experience in a circle


The Learning Cycle emphasises reflective observation as a way to analyse and draw conclusions from an experience. The aim is to take this learning into new experiences, completing the cycle.