Borton's Model of Reflection

What is Borton's 1970 Model of Reflection?

Borton’s model of reflection was the result of his work as a teacher and the reflective framework was placed into his 1970 book Reach, Touch and Teach. The model is simple; it provides three simple questions which can be used to reflect on an event or experience: What? So What? and Now What?

Borton (1970) states that the three questions aim to provide a logical framework to guide the reflective process. The What? question seeks to increase the awareness of the person doing the reflection regarding what has occurred, which includes self-awareness. The second question is an evaluation stage which allows for analysis of what occurred, to create a deeper understanding of what happened and why (Borton, 1970). It is this second stage that helps a person make sense of the event (Jasper, 2013). The final question, Now What? looks forward intending to use the insights and understanding created in the second stage to develop a plan on how things should happen in the future (Borton, 1970). Smith et al., ( 2016) summarised the model and the stages, this is presented in figure 1.

Summary of Borton's Reflective Model Stages

Summary Of Borton S Reflective Model Stages

Source: (Smith et al., 2016, p. 3)

What Fields of Study use Borton's Reflective Practice Model?

Borton's (1970) model was primarily designed to be used within education as a framework for reflective learning, to be used by students in reviewing their experiences (Borton, 1970). However, the model, with its generalisable framework, can be applied to any form of reflective practice (Jasper, 2013). Therefore, this has a variety of potential applications, with Rolfe, Freshwater, & Jasper (2010) noting it is a model potentially most valuable in areas such as nursing and pastoral care.

Why Use Borton's Reflective Model

The use of any reflective learning model is primarily undertaken to facilitate self-improvement by reflecting on an event, to understand what occurred and to provide a process to allow for improvement: Borton's model provides this framework. Theorists argue this is a model particularly suited for students and those early in their practice as the model is simple and relatively easy to apply (Jasper, 2013; McClean, 2019). Therefore, this model should be used as it easy to understand and simple to apply. However, although there are benefits to this model, there are also some challenges.

The Pros and Cons of Borton's Model

The pros of the Borton model include:

• Written by a teacher specifically considering the needs of students (Borton, 1970)

• Easy to use with only three steps (Borton, 1970; Jasper, 2013)

• Easy to understand with intuitive steps (Smith et al., 2016)

• A generalized model that can be applied across many different disciplines and subjects (Jasper, 2013)

The cons include:

• The generalized framework may be seen as ambiguous as it does not provide for a prescriptive or directed approach (Moon, 2000).

• The influencing factors that impact on an event or occurrence may have occurred before the start of the analysis, so may not be fully incorporated into the analysis

• The final stage is often the hardest for a new reflective learner, and this model provides very little guidance on how to plan forwards (McClean, 2019).

• The model is not suited to all circumstances (Jasper, 2013)

Why is Borton's Reflective Model Good?

Borton's (1970) model is good due to its simplicity and ease of understanding. Novices may use it through to skilled practitioners (Jasper, 2013). Furthermore, the model is likely to become more effective as a reflective learning tool as the user becomes more proficient thorough experience. All the pros listed above indicate it is a useful model, with the cons failing to tip the balance against it. It may also be argued this is a good framework as it has provided a foundation for other models such as those of Rolfe (cited in Rolfe et al., 2010) and Driscoll (2007).

How to Cite Borton's Reflective Model

Borton's (1970) model was first published in a book: Reach, Touch and Teach, where possible this should be used as a source and cited in the bibliography with full details of the author, the title, publication year as well as publisher name and locations.

For example:

Borton, T. (1970) Reach, Touch and Teach, London, Hutchinson.

In the text, it is usual to cite the author and the year, with some citation styles also requiring a page number. If a direct quote is used, a page number should always be provided.

How to Write a Reflection Using Borton's Reflective Model

The process of writing a reflective learning piece using this model should start with an open mind and careful consideration of the issues. The use of a template, such as that below, can be useful, with the learner making notes under each section. The learner should progress through the different sections in order, with each section leading to the next. After notes have been made, they may then be formulated into a coherent reflection document.

Borton's Reflective Model Template

The following template is based on Borton (1970) and the suggested questions of Jasper (2013), Smith et al. (2016), and McClean (2019)

Factor Thoughts


What happened, what did you do?

What did others there do?

What was the desired outcome, and did it differ from the result?

So What?

What was significant about this?

What did I learn?

Do I need to know more?

What Now?

What could I do next time?

What would be the outcome if I adjusted my actions

Borton's Reflective Model Example


I had to give a presentation. I had prepared the slides and checked them. On the morning of the presentation, I dressed smartly, arrived in time to prepare, and gave my talk while using the slides. It all seemed to go well. At the end, I answered questions from the audience. However, the feedback from the event told me I had spoken too quickly, making it difficult to follow, and I had not answered the questions thoroughly. I was disappointed.

So What?

This was important as I will need to give many more presentations as part of my studies, and once I am working. I learned that I talk quickly and that I may not listen carefully to the questions asked.

Now What?

I now know I need to speak at a more moderated pace, which I should practice beforehand. I also know that my answers to questions are not always comprehensive enough, so I need to practice answering questions and, in the presentation, should check back to make sure the answer is sufficient.


Borton, T. (1970) Reach, Touch and Teach, London, Hutchinson.

Driscoll, J. (2007) Practising Clinical Supervision: A Reflective Approach, London, Bailliere Tindall.

Jasper, M. (2013) Beginning Reflective Practice, Andover. MA, Cengage Learning.

McClean, T. (2019) Models for Reflection, The Institute, [online] Available from:

Moon, J. A. (2000) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and Practice, Abingdon, Routledge.

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D. and Jasper, M. (2010) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide, London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Smith, S., James, A., Brogan, A., Adamson, E. and Gentleman, M. (2016) Reflections about experiences of compassionate care from award winning undergraduate nurses – What, so what … now what?, Journal of Compassionate Health Care, 3(6), [online] Available from:

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