Atkins and Murphy Model of Reflection

What is Atkins & Murphy's theory of reflective practice?

Sue Atkins and Kathy Murphy developed their theory and model of reflective practice in 1994. Their theory of reflective practice is based around stopping and thinking about your work and consciously analysing decision to change future action for the better.

The theory is built upon analysis of previous models. Once something has been experienced we will naturally start to reflect on what happened. This will allow us to think through the experience, examine our feelings about what happened and decide on the next steps.

Their model divides reflective practice into the following steps: Self awareness of uncomfortable feelings and thoughts; the ability to describe; the ability to critically analyse events or experiences using logical thinking; the ability to evaluate learning, events or experiences; and then to identify any learning that has occurred.

From this theory they have developed a model of reflective practice. It a tool to be employed by practitioners or professionals to reflect upon their work and ultimately improve. Therefore, the model is a source of learning. It is a circular model, which requires you to think deeply about your actions, why you acted in a certain way and how your own knowledge and beliefs may have affected you.

Why use the Atkins & Murphy reflective model?

Practitioners can often face difficult situations. Atkins and Murphy’s claim that people find it difficult to think about hard or uncomfortable experiences. However, it is through reflecting upon these uncomfortable events that allow for improvement when faced with similar situations in the future. Reflexivity, the evaluation of the individual within an experience, is a natural next step on from reflecting on an experience. Atkins and Murphy believe that reflecting on your actions and how those actions affect the encounter and outcome is an important part of the role of a practitioner.

The focus is on self development. Refection does not only add to our knowledge but challenges the concepts and theories we hold. We thus see more and see differently. Atkins and Murphy suggest that for reflection to make a real difference to practice we need to add a commitment to take action as a result of the reflection. Atkins & Murphy’s model provides a practical template to structure reflective practice. It lays out the simple steps to allow for practitioners to look at events that have happened from them and to learn from them.

Why is Atkins and Murphy's Model of Reflection a Good Model?

While the reflective model developed by Atkins & Murphy is designed for use by nurses, it can be used in various fields. This flexibility is a benefit. While it may be difficult to focus on issues or areas of discomfort, this emphasis of the Atkins & Murphy model encourages practitioners to challenges assumptions. Challenging patterns of behaviour can lead to self-improvements, which in turn can make someone better in their role.

Although the model is detailed, the structured approached allows users to apply the model to their own experiences.

Atkins & Murphy model of reflection pros and cons


• The model provides a lot of detail and it encourages the uses to think deeply.

• It is flexible to use across different fields.

• The models provides a template into which you can input your own experiences.


• The model is slightly complex to use in practice and it is not as simple as other models, such as Gibbs (1988) or Kolb (1984).

• As it is complex, it makes it difficult to use for quick reflections, as may be needed by practitioners at work.

• The model does not direct the user to think about the context in which the event too place.

What fields of study use the Atkins & Murphy reflective practice model?

Atkins and Murphy’s model was firstly designed to be used in nursing practice. However, it has been used in childhood education, adult education and further and higher education. While the model is detailed, it is not overly narrow, so it could be used in many fields of study as well as everyday life.

How do you write a reflection using the Atkins & Murphy model?

It requires the user to focus upon difficult things that have occurred. You need to follow the diagram and the steps. The first stage of is to think of an experience of discomfort or surprise, which prompts an act of reflection. The second stage is to critically analyse the feelings or knowledge about the situation. The third stage is to develop a new perspective on the situation.

Atkins & Murphy model of reflection template

Model Atkins Murphy

Awareness of uncomfortable feelings and thoughts.

  • Action or new experience

Describe the situation, including thoughts and feelings:

  • Salient events
  • Key features

Analyse feelings and knowledge relevant to the situation:

  • Identify knowledge
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Imagine and explore alternatives

Evaluate the relevance of knowledge:

  • Does it help to explain or solve problems?
  • How complete was your use of knowledge?

Identify any learning which has occurred.

How do you cite Atkins & Murphy reflective model?

In text reference (Harvard style):

Atkins, and Murphy, K., (1995)

Bibliography/Reference list (Harvard Style):

Atkins, S. and Murphy, K., 1995. Reflective practice. Nursing Standard, 9(45), pp.31-37.

Atkins & Murphy reflective model example

Awareness of uncomfortable feelings and thoughts:

A child swore at me during a lesson and then refused to apologise.

Describe the situation, including thoughts and feelings:

This led me to loose respect of other students and their behaviour became worse after the event.

Analyse feelings and knowledge relevant to the situation:

This made me feel sad, as I had been personally attacked. I also was worried for the following lessons with this class as it may affect their behaviour further. I know that the child does not normally misbehave and this was out of character. It could be that they are having issues

Evaluate the relevance of knowledge:

This knowledge about the child should have informed my actions more and I should have used it to impact my decisions.

Identify any learning which has occurred:

I should have taken the child out and spoken to them before the behaviour got worse. I should always consider the nature of the child and realise that there may be other issues at play and their behaviour towards me, may be the result of other factors.

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