Driscoll Model of Reflection

What is the Driscoll Model of Reflection?

Reflective models provide a framework for students or practitioners to review their own performance with a view to understanding personal reactions and performance levels and the way they can improve (Moon, 2004). There are several models which may be used to guide the process, which requires the willingness to be self-critical. The Driscoll Model is one of these frameworks (Driscoll, 2007).

Driscoll (2007) first developed their reflective model in 1994 as a framework to guide self-reflection on specific events or happenings. The model was based on the 1970s work of Borton (1970) who had advocated for reflective practice using three questions: What? So what? and Now what? (Driscoll, 2007). These three questions are useful but may be argued as somewhat ambiguous, so Driscoll's development took Boston's questions and matched them to an experiential learning cycle (Driscoll, 2007).

Driscoll's (2007) model is designed for the learner guide their own learning by reflecting on the event using the three questions, with the addition of guidance regarding what should be incorporated at each stage pf the model. The first stage, the What? Is where the learned should reflect on what happened, first considering why they are undertaking the reflection. For example, the learner may want to understand why they reacted in a specific way, to assess what went right or what went wrong and identify behaviours or practices to avoid, repeat, or improve, or any combination of these motivations. The what stage is a descriptive stage, describing what occurred, the questions which may be used at this stage to fully describe what occurred may include several of the following questions:

• What was it that happened?

• What did you observe?

• What action(s) did you take?

• How did you react?

• How did other people react?

• What are the most important elements in the event?

This stage is purely descriptive; it is not asking why, the stage is merely allowing the data to be collected that will form the framework for the next stage of the analysis. However, the process does require the user to be honest and recall events accurately.

The second stage is the So What? question. This is the stage where the analysis is undertaken, and it the stage where most learning will be undertaken. By asking So What? the model will trigger the cognitive processes to increase understandings of the event (Driscoll, 2007). During this stage, the learner will examine their own feelings regarding the event and assess the way their feelings impacted on their behaviour or actions (Driscoll, 2007). Questions the learner may ask themselves during this stage include:

• What did you feel during the event?

• How do you feel about it now?

• Do you feel differently now? If you do, why do you feel differently?

• Why did you react (or fail to react) in the way you did?

• What (if any) were the positive aspects of the happening?

• What were the negative or worrying aspects of the experience?

• Were your experiences different to others? If so, why was that?

The second stage requires the learned to accept and acknowledge weaknesses or errors, but it is also a stage where the strengths and good reaction may be recognised. The understanding of what happened leads naturally to the last stage: Now What?

The third question leads to the improvement with the learner developing an action plan to decide who they will react or behave the next time they are in a similar position (Driscoll, 2007). To adjust behaviours and reactions, the learner must have self-awareness and understand how and why they acted or reacted in a specific way (Perusso, Blankesteijn and Leal, 2019). By understanding and being aware of the issues, they may adjust their reactions, even if the improvements are not fully aligned with the desired outcomes (Moon, 2004). Questions a learner may ask themselves during this stage may include:

• What impact did the event have on/for you?

• What needs to take place to alter the outcome?

• What actions would you take next time in the same situation?

• What information will you need when you face the same situation again?

• What do you need to prepare or adapt so you can improve your performance the next time?

This is a planning stage: by determining what needs to be done next time the learning process is brought to the fore, allowing a proactive approach which is more likely to create change compared to an unstructured and anecdotal review or unplanned approach (NMC, 2020; Driscoll, 2007). The process creates a cycle, as when the event or a similar event occurs, the same stages of What? So What? And Now What? with the next first stage identifying what happened and how, which will reflect any changes which are made and will allow reflection of the process, creating an ongoing learning cycle (Driscoll, 2007). A summary of the model is presented in the figure below.

The Driscoll Learning Model

Driscoll Model Of Reflection

Source: (Driscoll, 2007, p. 44)

Which Fields use the Driscoll Reflective Model?

Reflective models are commonly used across a wide range of disciplines where the abilities of an individual impact on their performance or the completion of tasks where there is not a simple standardisation of processes. The Driscoll model is one of many which may be used, so can be applied in many situations (Moon, 2000, 2004). Examples of disciplines which use reflective learning include, but are not limited to, education (Hébert, 2015), earth sciences (Harrison, Short and Roberts, 2003), business (Perusso, Blankesteijn and Leal, 2019), and in situations where there is a need to work with others (Loo and Thorpe, 2002). Invariably, the circumstances where it can be used are those where practice and experience will improve the performance of the practitioner. The reflective process accelerates the learning process and supplementing personal experience alone.

Driscoll's (2007) model can be applied to any of these as it is a general model, as it does not have elements which are specific to any discipline or professions. However, it is worth noting the model was developed with clinical practice situations mind (Driscoll, 2007). Therefore, it is unsurprising that the model is most commonly found used in a clinical/medical setting (Laverdure, 2017).

Driscoll Model of Reflection in Nursing Practice

Nursing practice is an area where there is extensive use of reflective learning. Nursing has multiple aspects which provide for a very diverse range of situations in which a partition will need to work, where there will be the requirement for subjective judgement (Mann, Gordon and MacLeod, 2009). As a nurse gains more experience, of the medical situations as well as different types of patient needs, they are likely to become more effective practitioner (Gibbs, 1988), meaning that reflective learning models, including the Driscoll model, are highly relevant to the profession. Indeed, if applying the definition of reflection given by Boud (1999, p. 19) that it is "a generic term for those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to a new understanding and appreciation", it is very apparent how and why this is beneficial to nurses, as the Driscoll model will support the reflective process. A student or practicing nurse can use the Driscoll model without the need for direct mentor support in order to enhance their own learning processes. However, as already noted, there are multiple reflective learning models that can be used, so there may also be consideration regarding why the Driscoll model could be used.

Why Use the Driscoll Reflective Model?

The professional nursing bodies, such as the Royal College of Nursing and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, all advocate for the use of reflective learning (NMC, 2020; McKinney, 2017). There are many models, and Driscoll's is not the most commonly cited; an anecdotal search of peer review literature indicates it is Gibbs (1988) reflective learning cycle that is more commonly found in practice. However, it may be argued that the Driscoll model has several advantages, mainly due to its higher level of simplicity. The three-stage model is easier to remember when compared to other models with more prescriptive stages. Notability, it is not only that there are just three stages; it is their straightforward nature, which makes remembering the different stages much simpler as they follow a logical and easy to recall progression. This may also be considered as one of the advantages associated with the model. But there are also disadvantages or weaknesses.

Pros and Cons of the Driscoll Reflective Model

As seen above, the main advantage of the Driscoll model is its' easy to use structure, because it is effortless to remember and relativity simple to apply. Experience in using reflective learning may improve personal efficacy. The approach also reflects many other models, providing many of the same steps in an easy to apply approach. For example, the ERA cycle requires a learner to experience, then reflect and finally develop an action plan (Jasper, 2013). These three steps are directly comparable to those of Driscoll. Furthermore, it is also a model that is easier than more widely used frameworks, such as Gibbs (1988), where there are 6 stages, and proficiency using the model requires practice. Driscoll model incorporates most of the stages seen in the Gibbs model, for example, Gibbs (1988) also starts with a description of what happened, and the second stage requires consideration of the feelings. These are both encompassed in the first What? stage of Driscoll's model. The third stage of Gibbs' model; evaluate, requires the learner to determine how the scenario progressed to identify positive and negative aspects, and then analyse why specific outcomes occurred. Again, these two stages in Gibbs (1988) model are only the single So What? stage in Driscoll's model. The final conclusion and action plan stages of Gibbs (1988) are incorporated into the Now What? stage. This shows the simplicity is an advantage.

The simplicity may also be seen as a disadvantage, as the application using the more ambiguous terms may be less detailed when compared to the more prescriptive models such as Gibbs (1988). For example, where evaluation and analysis provided as separate stages increase the level of thought required to assess the causal relationship between the different elements of the experience. Likewise, the development of a specific action plan as a specific stage may solicit more effort or detail to support personal learning.

The disadvantages with the Driscoll model are also the same as seen with many other reflective learning models. The real world where experiences are gained may not always be logical and subject to analysis in such a formulated manner. Indeed, there are circumstances were reflective learning is not appropriate, as the models cannot account for every situation. Even where situations are suitable for the application of reflective learning, the situation may not have started at the 'beginning' of the scenario considered in the analysis (Jasper, 2013). The last disadvantage is the way it needs to be a continual practice, as it is through the cyclic nature of the process that the benefits will be gained, singular practices will only provide minimal benefits (Gibbs, 1988).

Why is Driscoll a Good Reflective Model?

The Driscoll model can be an excellent reflective model. With many tools, it is not the tool itself that is the key to being successful, it is the way the tool is used, as seen within areas such as analysis and diagnostics, it is also true in reflective learning. The main advantage of the Driscoll is the way the tool is easy to apply; the concepts allow the individual to undertake the reflection without the need to refer to the model and guidance notes to complete the process thoroughly, this is illustrated in the model shown in figure 1. If a tool or framework is easy to use, it is more likely the student nurse or the practitioner will use it more frequently, including informal application when simply reviewing an event rather than undertaking a full reflective learning analysis. The Driscoll model may help to build good habits.

How to Write a Reflection Using the Driscoll Model

Using the model requires the learner reflecting to completing the three stages. The initial stage requires the learner to think about the event. The learner should adopt an appropriate attitude, including a willingness to be critical of ones' own performance, as well as open to recognising good performance. The reflection should also take into consideration the role of the learner and their current level of knowledge. For example, if a student nurse is undertaking a reflective learning practice considering how a patient was treated during a medical emergency, they should focus on their own role when considering how they performed, as they would not be in a position to have a major influence on the outcome for the patient.

The writing process may start with the student noting down the three headings and then answering the questions indicated at the beginning of this paper. The notes should allow for spaces in the initial draft, as the learner may remember more issues of factors as they progress. It is only after the second stage is completed that it is possible to consider how you would behave differently if the same event occurred again. The action plan may also be used to identify further learning that may be undertaken to prepare for a similar situation. Importantly, the process should be used continually to maximise the benefits it will provide.

How to Cite the Driscoll Reflective Model

The reflection model is an idea developed by another, so should always be cited to indicate the originator. The citation method should be in line with the citation style that is recommended by the learning establishment, of if non is recommended by the citation style preferred by the student. As a minimum, this should include an in-text citation indicating the author with the full details provided in the reference list provided at the end. For example, in this paper, the model referred to was in Driscoll's (2007) publication, the reference for this being:

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

This is despite the fact it had been published previously by Driscoll.

If the model is accessed in a secondary source, then the citation may include the author and the year, and then details which include 'cited in', for example; (Driscoll, 2007, cited Jasper, 2013). Wherever possible, the original source should be located. For further understanding, see the first section of this paper.

Example of the Driscoll Reflective Cycle

The following is a demonstration of the Driscoll model would look like. A full example of a reflective essay using Driscoll's (2007) model of reflection can be found here.


A child was presented by her mother to have a standard scheduled vaccination. The female child, aged 3, was upset and appeared to be scared of the needle and did not want to have the injection. The mother wanted to get it done but was also upset at seeing her child distressed. I was asked by the junior doctor giving the shot to try and distract the child while he prepared and gave her the injection. I did not know what to do. I first tried to talk to the child to distract her, which did not work. The mother said to me 'peekaboo'. I then played peekaboo pretending to hide behind my hands, and the girl was distracted, and the doctor rapidly gave her the injection which she hardly noticed

So What?

I felt a little lost and confused at first. I did not know how to distract the child, and the request to keep her occupied took me by surprise. While I was lost on what to do, the doctor remained calm, and the mother, although upset, knew what to do. I was pleased I listened to the child's mother as it gave me the information I needed, and I could then distract the girl. If I had known this before, I could have distracted the child sooner, reducing the stress for her and her mother. I have learned that it is better to be prepared and able to distract a child if it is needed and that peekaboo can be very useful. I noticed that I was also relieved when the child was successfully distracted and felt happy that I had been able to help.

Now What?

I need to be more prepared to distract children when having treatment, not only injections but any form of treatment where they may be upset. When the child is calmer, it is easier for the parents and the medical professionals to look after them. If I can play my part and be prepared to distract the child, I will be playing an important role. I need to practice keeping a smile and watching for signs that a child may be getting distressed, particularly if their parent is occupied, for example, talking to the doctor. Concurrently, I need to remain aware of the parent and physicians' preferences to ensure I am reacting appropriately. To achieve this, I will be more observant in future situations and will also practice effective communication with small children,


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

Boud, D. (1999) Avoiding the traps: Seeking good practice in the use of self-assessment and reflection in professional course, Social Work Education, 18, pp. 121–132.

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

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods, Oxford, Oxford Polytechnic.

Harrison, M., Short, C. and Roberts, C. (2003) Reflecting on Reflective Learning: The case of geography, earth and environmental sciences, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 27(2), pp. 133–152.

Hébert, C. (2015) Knowing and/or experiencing: a critical examination of the reflective models of John Dewey and Donald Schön, Reflective Practice, 16(3), pp. 361–371.

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

Laverdure, P. (2017) Using Reflection to Advance Professional Expertise, OT Practice, pp. 8–11.

Loo, R. and Thorpe, K. (2002) Using reflective learning journals to improve individual and team performance, Team Performance Management, 8(5/6), pp. 134–139.

Mann, K., Gordon, J. and MacLeod, A. (2009) Reflection and reflective practice in health professions education: a systematic review, Advances in Health Sciences Education, 14, pp. 595–621.

McKinney, A. (2017) The value of life story work for staff, people with dementia and family members, NursingOlder People, 29(5), pp. 25–29.

Moon, J. A. (2004) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning, Abingdon, Routledge.

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

NMC (2020) Guidance Sheet: Reflective Practice, Nursing and Midwifery Council, [online] Available from: https://www.nmc.org.uk/globalassets/sitedocuments/revalidation/reflective-practice-guidance.pdf.

Perusso, A., Blankesteijn, M. and Leal, R. (2019) The contribution of reflective learning to experiential learning in business education, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, [online] Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338204133_The_contribution_of_reflective_learning_to_experiential_learning_in_business_education.

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