Johns’ Model for Structured Reflection

What is Johns’ model of reflection?

Christopher Johns developed a model of structured reflection (MSR) based on reflective cues, developing Carper’s (1978) knowledge pattern (Johns, 1995). Using Carper’s four types of knowing (empirical, personal, ethical and aesthetic) Johns adds a fifth one, reflexivity, to create his own model. The model was originally designed for the field of nursing and has since been applied to several fields. The model is focused on dialogue between practitioners and their supervisors, to help to make practice-based knowledge explicit (Johns, 2006). This is achieved by having five cue questions, which are further split into detailed questions for a more advanced reflection (Johns, 1993). Alongside the cues, Johns states that there should be an external and internal focus; the former relating to your own thoughts and emotions, while the external focus considers the facts. This is achieved through the cues, which cover five basic categories: describing the experience, reflection, influencing factors, whether it could have been dealt with better, and learning.

Johns' reflective cycle

Johns Reflective Model

Why use the Johns’ reflective model?

This model is relevant because it offers for a structured method of reflection, emphasising the practitioners’ knowledge with the external/ internal focus. This means that the individual has an understanding of specific issues and points external to them, while also having insight into considerations that are internal to the practitioner. These two processes of reflection (external/ internal) are useful to apply in order to gain knowledge quicker in comparison to other dialogue methods. Therefore, this model is good to use because the practitioner is firstly required to look inwards to recall the experience being analysed before writing a descriptive account. They are then required to look outwards, based on the five key sets of questions developed by Johns.

Why is Johns’ considered a good reflective model?

Using Johns’ MSR model is beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, it is applicable due to its ease of use as a series of questions, with the aim of speeding up the process of learning knowledge compared to other reflective models. Secondly it is critically based, meaning that the practitioner is analysing their own emotions and actions when applying the internally focused part of the reflection. Furthermore, the set of questions aims to cover five essential themes that all practitioners should actively develop, from personal to ethical, in order to carry out their work in the best way possible. Moreover, such reflectivity may reveal blind spots in an individual’s practice, which may have gone unnoticed before, such as biases and oversights.

Johns’ model of reflection pros and cons


There can be understood to be many positives for Johns’ MSR model, notably;

  • The internal/ external process of reflection, which allows for a holistic understanding of a situation or event.
  • It facilitates a deeper understanding between the practitioner and the supervisor, something that is important as it can foster trust between them.


Despite these advantages, there are some legitimate criticisms of the reflective model that are necessary to mention;

  • The five key sets of questions may not be sufficient enough in order to understand the complexities of the situation and to effectively reflect on it.
  • There are some drawbacks when it comes to the practical application of what has been learnt in the reflective process due to a weak structure of appliance.

What fields of study use Johns’ model of structured reflection?

This critical reflective model started in nursing, however it is widely used beyond this context within the health profession in general, education, those in positions of power and leadership, and management.

How do you write a reflection using the Johns’ reflective cycle model?

Writing and applying Johns’ model involves the description of the experience, before turning to a reflection by asking ‘What was I trying to achieve and what were the significant factors?’. Then focus is turned to influencing factors that may have influenced the decision making at the time, followed by a consideration of whether it could have been handled better. Finally comes the learning phase whereby a critical reflection is necessary of the process that has just taken place by asking questions such as ‘What will change because of this experience?’ and ‘How has this experience changed my understanding of the key topics (Empirics – scientific; Ethics – moral knowledge; Personal – self-awareness; Aesthetics – the art of what we do, our own experiences).

Johns’ model of structured reflection template

Having briefly described the production of the model, a template is provided below:

Reflective Cue

Carper’s knowledge pattern

Bring the mind home

Focus on a description of an experience that seems significant in some way


What particular issues seem significant to pay attention to?


How were others feeling and why did they feel that way?


How was I feeling and why did I feel that way?


What was I trying to achieve and did I respond effectively?


What were the consequences of my actions on the patient, others and myself?


What factors influence the way I was/am feeling, thinking and responding to this situation? (personal, organisational, professional, cultural)


What knowledge did or might have informed me?


To what extent did I act for the best and in tune with my values?


How does this situation connect with previous experiences?


Given the situation again, how might I respond differently?


What would be the consequences of responding in new ways for the patient, others and myself?


What factors might constrain me from responding in new ways?


How do I NOW feel about this experience?


Am I able to support myself and others better as a consequence?


What insights have I gained? (framing perspectives)


How do you cite Johns’ reflective model?

In order to cite this model  in the Harvard citation style, the following is recommended:

Johns, C (1993) Achieving effective work as a professional activity in Towards Advanced Nursing Practice (Ch11) Eds: Schober, JE., and Hinchliff SM., (1995) Arnold.

Johns’ reflective model example

An example of how to effectively use the model within the field of nursing would be as follows:

Taking the case of caring for an elderly woman, Johns’ MSR model would focus on detailing the experience, such as any particular events that stood out and how were you and others feeling. Next you move onto what you wanted to achieve, in this case washing and bathing an elderly patient, considering the consequences of your actions. If there was some difficulty, perhaps due to inexperience, then it is important to follow up by asking what made you feel and act the way you did, and how acting differently next time may impact your and the patient’s experience. You would then turn back to how you are feeling and gauge how you are feeling at the moment about the experience, and whether you are better equipped to support yourself and others. Finally, you would ask what you have learned through this reflective process and how this can help you care for your patient better next time.


Carper, B. (1978) Fundamental Patterns of Knowing in Nursing, in Advances in Nursing Science 1(1): 13-23.

Johns, C (1993) Achieving effective work as a professional activity in Towards Advanced Nursing Practice (Ch11) Eds: Schober, JE., and Hinchliff SM., (1995) Arnold.

Johns C (1995) Framing learning through reflection within Carper’s fundamental ways of knowing in nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 22, 2, 226-234.

Johns, C. (2006) Engaging Reflection in Practice- a narrative approach. Oxford Blackwell Publishing.

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