The CARL Framework of Reflection

The CARL model is a framework for reflection that has been modified from a job interview technique.

The idea is that you keep ‘CARL’ in mind as a useful way to help you remember a structure for answering questions.

The CARL model helps you to break down a recent experience to help you to better understand it, and to reflect on the outcome.

CARL has four elements and they are:

1. Context

Explain the situation and give key background information.

  • What was the background/circumstances of the situation?
  • Were you prepared for it in any way?
  • What was the situation?
  • Where was it?
  • Who was there?
  • What am I hoping to accomplish?
2. Action

Explain what actions you took and explain why you took them. Give clear reasons and evidence where necessary.

  • What did you do?
  • What else happened (other actions)?
  • Why did I choose this action?
  • What other actions could I have chosen?
3. Results

Explain what happened as a result of your actions. Talk about the outcomes in relation to aims and objectives. Focus on the level of success and the level of satisfaction.

  • Did I accomplish what I wanted?
  • Did my actions accomplish what I wanted in the way I expected?
  • What are the implications of my actions on myself and others, for similar situations in the future?
  • Could different actions have given me the same result?
  • Is there a way I could improve my results or actions?
4. Learning

Identify what you have learned. Would you do the same again? Would you revise and refine anything?

  • What did I learn from the experience?
  • Would I do the same thing again or would I change something?
  • What should I do next time I’m in a similar experience?
  • Should I change anything about the way I do things?
  • What and Why?

This incredibly simple model really helps you to talk through four key steps of an experience and it gives you the opportunity to expand and elaborate knowing what’s next in the process. It ensures that you don’t dry up and you have given your responses some careful thought.

Some might argue that the CARL model is too simple and superficial because you could end up just describing the context, action, results and learning, without really going into a deep dive, analysing and being critical.

However, when done with a critical mind, this model can change your ideas and understanding of a situation. It can help you be active, dynamic and generate new ideas and help you to look at issues through more than one lens.

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