Reflection is a type of thinking associated with deep thought, aimed at achieving better understanding.

You’ll reflect within the coaching session (*reflecting ‘in action’) with the support of your coach, and beyond it (*reflecting ‘on action’) through your own reflective thinking. Both are useful.

Reflection contains a mixture of elements, including:

  • making sense of an experience – e.g. gaining a better understanding about something that’s happened, including looking at it from a range of viewpoints
  • standing back – the coaching space gives you a supportive and ‘safe’ space to look at something from a more objective viewpoint (perhaps a problem you’re trying to solve or an obstacle you want to overcome)
  • weighing things up – reflective practice encourages seeking a balanced judgement, taking everything into account, not just the most obvious
  • clarity – when you reflect on something it provides greater clarity; within the coaching session your coach helps you gain clarity on things like your goal and obstacles that impede progress towards it

Reflecting in the session

The questioning by your coach, what they feed back to you, the ‘coaching space’ that your coach holds … all encourage you to think and reflect, weigh up options, come to decisions, and so on. This will be supported through the trusting relationship your coach builds with you as you work together.

In sessions, reflections can be fleeting or longer. Your coach should spot when you need time to process and reflect on something for a bit longer.

Reflecting in the coaching session involves assessing ideas / options / solutions as you go along – identifying which are appropriate and which aren’t.

Do you have a favourite question that helps you reflect on a tricky problem?

Reflecting beyond the session

In your coaching session, you may have learnt new things about yourself and gained new ideas for moving towards your desired outcome. But the learning can (and should) continue beyond the session.

Where do you do your best thinking?

I like to reflect whilst out walking, or make notes in a notebook. My notes will either be a free-flowing ‘stream of consciousness’, followed by a re-read and some developmental questions around what I’ve learned and next steps. Or I’ll choose a model like the ones below to structure my thinking and creating useful outcomes to move forwards.


Reflective practice models

Take a look at the 2 models below. Try one or both, research others, then decide what works best to continue your learning and development beyond the coaching session.


Model #1 – The 3 Whats**

This model centres on 3 questions: What?, So what? & Now what? (or What next?)

What?’ … Write a description about the event you want to reflect on

So what?‘ … Analyse the event by reflecting on specific aspects of it

What next?‘ … Identify actions you’ll take based on your learning

Although recording isn’t essential, writing things down will help you to organise and process your thoughts in order to decide what’s most important and what you’ll do as a result.

Model #2 – Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle***

This model requires more critical analysis than The 3 Whats Model, and is more appropriate for a longer piece of reflection benefiting from a greater depth of learning. 

In summary … you’ll be supported by your coach to reflect as part of the coaching process, but beyond the session – it’s down to you to carry out any reflections.


How do you like to reflect?

What works best for you?


*Ref – Schon, 1983. Critics debate whether it’s possible to distinguish between the 2 types, as reflecting in action, or ‘thinking on your feet’, is still after the moment of the thing you’re reflecting on, albeit momentarily.

**This has been attributed separately to Borton, Rolfe, & Driscoll. Borton’s work seems to be the originator of this model.

***Various sources, including:  Gibbs G, (1988) Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching & Learning Models; FE Unit, Oxford Polytechnic