What is the Atkins and Murphy Model of Reflection?

Sue Atkins and Kathy Murphy developed their theory and model of reflective practice in 1994. Their theory of reflective practice is based around stopping and thinking about your work and consciously analysing decision to change future action for the better.

The theory is built upon analysis of previous models. Once something has been experienced we will naturally start to reflect on what happened. This will allow us to think through the experience, examine our feelings about what happened and decide on the next steps.

Their model divides reflective practice into the following steps:

  • Self awareness of uncomfortable feelings and thoughts
  • the ability to describe
  • the ability to critically analyse events or experiences using logical thinking
  • the ability to evaluate learning, events or experiences
  • to identify any learning that has occurred.

From this theory they have developed a model of reflective practice. It a tool to be employed by practitioners or professionals to reflect upon their work and ultimately improve. Therefore, the model is a source of learning. It is a circular model, which requires you to think deeply about your actions, why you acted in a certain way and how your own knowledge and beliefs may have affected you.

Nurse practitioners can often face difficult situations. Atkins and Murphy’s claim that people find it difficult to think about hard or uncomfortable experiences. However, it is through reflecting upon these uncomfortable events that allow for improvement when faced with similar situations in the future. Reflexivity, the evaluation of the individual within an experience, is a natural next step on from reflecting on an experience. Atkins and Murphy believe that reflecting on your actions and how those actions affect the encounter and outcome is an important part of the role of a practitioner.

The focus is on self development. Refection does not only add to our knowledge but challenges the concepts and theories we hold. Atkins and Murphy suggest that for reflection to make a real difference to practice we need to add a commitment to take action as a result of the reflection. Atkins & Murphy’s model provides a practical template to structure reflective practice. It lays out the simple steps to allow for practitioners to look at events that have happened from them and to learn from them.

How do you write a reflection using the Atkins & Murphy model?

It requires the user to focus upon difficult things that have occurred. You need to follow the diagram and the following steps.

atkins-model-of-reflection

1. Awareness

In the first step of Atkins and Murphy model of reflection it is essential to gain knowledge or awareness about the triggers that have caused discomfort. This step is not yet concerned with the whole situation because this will be described in the following section. Instead, it is now essential to identify one’s thoughts and emotions that have resulted from the experience. This means that an individual must be open and express him- or herself vulnerable to identify the discomforts. According to Atkins and Murphy model of reflection, analyzing personal feelings and thoughts in this way improves developments. In addition, discomfort can also be a result out of new experiences. This could include a discomfort caused by switching job positions if a new job has to be learned.

Awareness of uncomfortable feelings and thoughts:

  • What happened?
  • What had an effect on my emotions?
  • What were my emotions after the situation occurred?
  • What was I thinking?
  • What am now thinking looking back at the situation?

2. Describe

Now that the personal emotions and thoughts have been analyzed, the Atkins and Murphy model of reflection states that it is time to describe the situation. In this step, an individual has to analyze the situation and key events that have occurred critically. For example, a particular environmental setting may have caused a trigger for an individual to experience discomfort, but it could be that a different environmental setting has prevented the discomfort from happening. For this reason, it is important to analyze and describe the situation. In this way, a better understanding will be realized why a discomfort occurred, and it will be easier to learn from this discomfort.

Describe the situation, including thoughts and feelings:

  • What was the event?
  • Where was the event?
  • When did it happen?
  • What was my involvement during the event?
  • What did other people do?
  • What were the key observations?

3. Analyse

In this step of Atkins and Murphy model of reflection, the individual must now analyse assumptions that he or she made, also referred to as the knowledge of the reflective practice participant. For example, before a situation occurred, the individual might have thoughts about the event. It is in step essential to determine whether the assumptions were correct or false. More importantly, Atkins and Murphy model of reflection states that the participant of reflective practice must additionally explore alternatives. This means that he or she must analyse how the behavior would have been different in a different setting.

Analyse feelings and knowledge relevant to the situation:

  • Imagine and explore alternatives
  • What did I already know about the situation?
  • What were my assumptions about the situation?
  • How did the reality reflect my assumptions?
  • What were the differences?
  • How would I react if something else happened?
  • In what type of scenarios would the discomfort not occur?

4. Evaluate

This step of Atkins and Murphy model of reflection may differ from one person to another. It is concerned with personally assessing how the knowledge of the previous step is relevant for improvements. The relevance of knowledge is therefore concerned with identifying if it helps to explain the problem or discomfort. It also deals with assessing how the problem could be solved. For a participant of reflective practice, it can help to analyze different scenarios and potential behaviors, but the positive effects of this way of reflection may differ per individual.

Evaluate the relevance of knowledge:

  • How does it help to explain the situation?
  • How does analyzing different scenarios influence your thoughts?
  • How complete was your use of knowledge??
  • How can your knowledge next time be useful?

5. Identify

Based on the previously described steps of Atkins and Murphy model of reflection, it is now possible to identify the learnings. By this step, the model has assessed the emotions, situations, assumptions, and knowledge of the reflective practice participant. By integrating all elements, the participant of reflective practice can easily state learnings and make use of these in future situations.

Identify any learning which has occurred:

  • What have I learned?
  • How can my learnings be used in future situations?

Evaluation of the model

While the reflective model developed by Atkins & Murphy is designed for use by nurses, it can be used in various fields. This flexibility is a benefit. While it may be difficult to focus on issues or areas of discomfort, this emphasis of the Atkins and Murphy model encourages practitioners to challenges assumptions. Challenging patterns of behaviour can lead to self-improvements, which in turn can make someone better in their role.

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