The 5R framework for reflection

The 5R framework for reflection will guide you through Reporting, Responding, Relating, Reasoning, and Reconstructing to make sense of a learning experience.

Best used for

Reflecting on Impact and project implementation

In the context of Digital Social Impact courses and learning activities

This framework developed by Bain et al. (for example 2002), focuses on five core stages, each addressing one aspect of reflection. By thinking about all 5 stages individually students will engage with all the essential components of reflection, enabling them to produce a critically engaged reflection based in their experience.

Main Target Group


Potential tools for digitising this activity

As it involves a series of quetions, it could be done via an online survey or other tools

Step by Step

1 Students should become familiar with the 5 stages which are:

  • Reporting of the context of the experience
  • Responding to the experience (observations, feelings, thoughts, etc.)
  • Relating the experience to knowledge and skills you already have
  • Reasoning about the significant factors/theory to explain the experience
  • Reconstructing your practice by planning future actions for a similar experiences

2 Reporting: Here students should present the context with little or no comment or interpretation of the experience.

What to do

What’s included

Helpful questions

A brief description of the experience/problem or issue

The key elements of the situation that are essential for you to communicate the context to reader. 

What happened?

What are the key aspects of this situation?

Who was involved?

What did I do?

3 Responding: Here students can present their reaction or response to the situation. This can be thoughts, feelings, and observations.

What to do

What’s included

Helpful questions

Provide your personal response to the situation.

Your feelings and thoughts about the experience, as well as any observations and potential questions you have.

How did what happened make me feel?

What did I think?

What made me think and feel this way?


4 Relating: Here students can relate their experience of the reported situation with their knowledge and skills from outside of the situation.

What to do

What’s included

Helpful questions

Provide your understanding of how the situation relates to your own knowledge and past experiences.

Your connections between past experiences, your skills, knowledge, your understanding and the situation.

  • Have I seen this before?
  • What was similar/different then?
  • Do I have skills and knowledge to deal with this?


5 Reasoning: Here students can make sense of the situation in terms of significant factors and, if relevant (for example if requested in assessments), the theoretical literature relevant to their experience.

What to do

What’s included

Helpful questions

Explore and explain the situation or experience.

Significant factors within the situation and how they are important to understanding what happened.

What is the most important aspect of this situation and why?

Is there any theoretical literature that can help me make sense of the situation?

How do different perspectives (for example personal, as a student or professional) affect the way I understand the situation?

How would someone who is knowledgeable about these types of situations respond?


6 Reconstructing: Here students make a conclusion about their future plans based on the previous four sections.

What to do

What’s included

Helpful questions

Reframe or reconstruct future practice by drawing conclusions from the four previous stages.

Use this to develop an action plan for what to do next.

Your deeper understanding and summary of the learning.

You will also have to include an action plan, arguing for why it will work.

That can be based on literature included in the previous stage or from the new knowledge gained from the Relating and Reasoning stages.

How would I need to do this differently in the future?

What might work and why?

Are there different options?

Are my ideas supported by theory?

Can I make changes to benefit others?

What might happen if…?