International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticleReflecting differently. New dimensions: reflection-before-action and reflection-beyond-action
Type of ArticleOriginal Practice Development and Research
Author/sSharon Edwards
ReferenceVolume 7, Issue 1, Article 2
Date of PublicationMay 2017
Keywordsnew dimensions, reflection, reflection-in-action, reflection-on-action

Background: This article attempts to move reflection forward from a process currently identified as two-dimensional (reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action) to a four-dimensional process by adding reflection-before-action and reflection-beyond-action. In nursing clinical practice reflection-in-action is the required skill, but reflection-on-action is often advocated in nurse education through the application of reflective models in assignments. Nurse education draws on practice but generally, when using reflective practice, applies some sort of method or guide to direct student learning. This approach does not fully recognise that much learning arises from individual students’ own clinical practice experiences. The notion that undertaking reflection-on-action assignments develops the reflection-in-action skills needed for clinical practice is not demonstrated in the literature. Yet it is reflection-in-action that can aid professional practice and enhance learning. This is why it is important to explore a broader approach to reflection.

Aims: To show more value can be gained from engaging with two additional dimensions of reflection – those of reflection-before-action and reflection-beyond-action, and to demonstrate how these can be linked to the better known concepts reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action, and to the author’s doctoral research, practice experience and practice development activities.

Findings: Nursing reflection-on-action is widely used for a range of purposes, but restricting reflection in nurse education to this neglects the full potential of a broader application of reflection. A lifelong application of reflection can demonstrate its value for a more holistic and practical development approach.

Conclusions: This article expands reflection and provides two additional dimensions. Instead of identifying reflection as two-dimensional, this article proposes that reflection can better serve learning from practice and developing professional practice with four-dimensions: reflection-before, reflection-in, reflection-on and reflection-beyond-action.

Implications for practice:

  • Reflection as a four-dimensional process can give access to improved professional practice that would otherwise remain hidden
  • Through reflecting differently, nurses can process their reflection before-action, in-action, on-action, and beyond-action as a means to expand and deepen their understanding of professional practice
  • Nurses can benefit from being allowed to engage in reflection freely and without constraint

This article by Sharon Edwards is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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