How to Reflect on Feedback

Feedback is a big part of our daily lives. It can be oral, written, informal, formal, descriptive, evaluative, peer, and self-assessed. When we talk about feedback at LearningBridge, we often refer to its use in a formal setting as part of a “Generative Feedback Process”. Having gone through the process of gathering feedback, how do we use it? There are usually some positive and some negative points included in the feedback, and we might naturally want to defend ourselves from the negative feedback. In the article, “How to Accept Difficult Feedback”, Glade mentions 6 steps to accomplish this. One of them is to step back and reflect. We need to reflect on the feedback given to so that we can learn. After that we can put together a plan to act. How do we effectively reflect on feedback that is given?

What Model Should I follow?Woman Reflecting

There are many models with varying numbers of stages that explain how to reflect on feedback. Kolb’s Reflective Cycle was first published in 1984 and has 4 stages. The Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle was presented in 1988 and has 6 stages. You can read about the differences between these two, “What is the Difference Between Kolb and Gibbs Reflective Cycle”. For this article, I am going to focus on the 3 stages that I think are the most useful.

3 Stages of Reflection

Most important, you need these 3 stages for the simplest reflection model: Descriptive, Critical Thinking, and Future Focus.

Stage 1 – Descriptive

Describe in your own words what the feedback is saying. This can help you clarify your understanding. People retain information in different ways. For some, it helps to write it down in their own words. For others, it might be saying it out loud to someone else. Therefore, use the method that works best for you.

Stage 2 – Critical Thinking

Once you have put ideas into your own words you can then dive into more critical thinking about what it means. You can ask yourself who, what, where, when, how, and why.


Who was involved? Were they people you normally interact with or part of a special project?


What was good and what was bad? Is there anything you could have done that you didn’t? What did you do that you wished you hadn’t?


Where did this happen? Was it in your workspace, a neutral area, or the workspace of someone else?


When did this occur? Was it in the morning, afternoon, or evening?


How did you react to the situation? Did things change or not go as expected and you were required to adapt?


Why did you do what you did or why was the result good or bad?

Stage 3 – Future Focus

Determine areas in your life that you need to change or areas in your life that you can change or actions you can continue to do or improve on.

Critical Thinking and How We Reflect

Reflection is defined as thinking quietly and calmly. Therefore, we need to step back to think. Everyone is different so there is not one method that works for everyone. Use whichever method allows your mind to be calm while you think about the feedback.
I have 6 kids. At my house, it can be very difficult to reach this state of mind where I can quietly and calmly think. Even when the kids are getting along and playing, it is still noisy! One of my hobbies is cycling. I recently have been riding with a friend who is training for a Half Ironman race. I have noticed a difference in my rides. While I strain to keep pace with him all my focus goes into my riding. This includes my pedaling, breathing, shifting, and many other things. There is no room left for me to think about anything else. This contrasts with how my rides normally are. On my usual, slower-paced rides, ideas—both professional and personal—come to mind that I have been thinking about. These rides are time that I get to ponder ideas, and my mental state allows me to reflect.


In conclusion, There are many models out there to help you reflect on feedback you have received. Focus on finding the meaning behind what was said and what you can do to improve. A key part to the process is stepping back from the feedback to allow yourself to reflect on it quietly and calmly. This allows you to come up with ideas on how you can improve.