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Reflecting on your clinical practice is a key part of continuing professional development (CPD) and revalidation.

It leads to a better understanding of where improvements are needed and how to achieve change. The RCOG’s Reflection tools and resources can be found below.

CPD is most effective when you reflect on your learning. Reflection encourages you to become a lifelong learner as it necessitates focussed and analytical thinking. Documented reflection leads to the identification of areas for improvement and professional development and is an important element of annual appraisal.

The emphasis should be on the learning, not just a description of what happened. Good reflection will show evidence of insight, critical analysis and evaluation of the experience from a personal perspective and the outcome of the learning. Reflection may be triggered by some sort of internal discord, and focus on the individual at the centre of the experience.

This sort of reflection may result in outcomes related to what was appropriate and what could have been done differently, often involving attitudes and assumptions. An example of this could be reflection on a serious incident. Documentation of this reflection should focus on the learning. Only a brief account of the triggering event is required.

However this is only one aspect of reflection for CPD. Reflection will add to learning for most if not all CPD activities. For example, reflection will demonstrate learning from attending meetings, undertaking audit, developing guidelines, teaching others, learning new skills, case reviews, complaints and compliments.

Reflection on CPD learning activity

A reflective note for each CPD learning activity should contain the following three elements:

  1. Title and Description of Activity
  2. What prompted the Learning Event?
  3. reasons why the learning event was undertaken
  4. what you wanted to achieve from the learning event
  5. if the learning event was planned, how it links to your PLP
  6. What did you learn from this Learning Event?
  7. include whether it achieved what you wanted to achieve
  8. how it might be helpful in the future practice
  9. any plans for further development activity that has resulted from this learning

Both personal and shared reflections are equally valid but a reflective discussion with colleague or appraiser will usually add value to the process. A reflective log will document your reflection on the learning activity. A Reflective Log is essential in order to gain credits for all experiential learning events (ELE) but optional for formal (FLE) and specific learning events (SLE). A reflection log is built in your CPD ePortfolio.

How much and at what level?

Reflection should occur as soon as possible following an activity or event to ensure as much recollection and meaning as possible. Good reflection goes beyond descriptive observation and demonstrates evidence of analytical thinking, learning and action planning. One word answers should be avoided. You are encouraged to reflect on the learning gained and any further learning needs identified when recording CPD activities.

Top Tips for Effective Reflection for CPD

  • Use a model that suits you (it doesn’t have to be a structured template)
  • Be open to other ways of thinking – critically analyse, challenge your assumptions, consider alternative perspectives
  • Return to earlier reflections
  • Have a reflective dialogue with a trusted ‘friend’
  • Think forward – sharing, implementation, follow up learning

Read further guidance on reflection on pages 7 to 10 of the CPD Guidance.

Read further information about Learning Events on pages 23–29 of the CPD Framework

A case study on Learning by Reflection is available in RCOG Learning.