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August 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

“Learning from the Past”: Self-Reflections of Three Indonesian Pre-service English Teachers

M. Faruq Ubaidillah works at the Center for Scientific Publication, Universitas Negeri Malang, Indonesia. His works have appeared in international peer-reviewed journals such as The Journal of AsiaTEFL, The New English Teacher, and Korea TESOL Journal.

Shinta Amalia works at the Center for Scientific Publication, Universitas Negeri Malang, Indonesia. She is a recipient of Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) scholarship 2019.

Veronico N. Tarrayo is an associate professor at the Department of English, University of Santo Tomas, the Philippines. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Asian Journal of English Language Studies (AJELS).



Anchored by the inconclusive studies portraying past experiences of pre-service teachers in Indonesia, this study seeks to construe how three Indonesian pre-service teachers make meaning of their past learning experiences in English as a foreign language. We employed a narrative design in this study. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and were analyzed descriptively. The results documented that the participants negotiated their past learning experience with multi-resource and supports. They, additionally, held multiple perspectives in the pre-service teacher education. Based on these findings, suggestions were offered at the end of this paper.



This study, anchored by the very limited studies on reflective practice enacted by pre-service English teachers (PET) in Indonesia, attempts to unveil how past learning experiences contribute to shaping their negotiated and situated identity within a teacher education program.  Originated from Dewey’s (1977) definition of reflective practice, which is an effort of thinking intensely on one’s actions, scholars have witnessed how reflective practice affects one’s performances in myriad sectors such as physical education (Uhrich, 2009), medical education (Brett-MacLean & Cave, 2014), engineering leadership (Finlayson, 2016), and English language education (Godínez Martínez, 2018). Previously, Yip (2007) have considered reflective practice as a process of self-reflection involving self-observation, self-understanding, and self-revelation as parts of professional practice. In this study, thereby, we employ the term “self-reflection” since it is more situated and contextual (Xu, 2018).

Self-reflection has been deemed crucial in construing values depicted in ones’ personality, such as the understanding of personal and professional critical consciousness (Gay & Kirkland, 2003). In pre-service education programs, several studies have attempted to explore their self-reflections on teaching practice via vlogs (Ong et al., 2020), blogs as electronical journaling (Garza & Smith, 2015), and a school-mediated teaching program (Lee & Loughran, 2000). It is evident from these studies that scholars have focused on self-reflections depicted in teaching practices as policy and curriculum align pre-service teachers’ teaching skills development.

Although the above studies significantly contribute to improved and sustained teaching practices, there is a paucity in considering pre-service English teachers’ past learning experiences as a decisive factor in their teaching assumptions, beliefs, and principles. Their learning experiences prior to undertaking a pre-service teacher education program in higher education generally yield interesting trajectories (Smith, 2017), that lead them to perceptual learning and teaching. As learning from the past also plays a key role in a successful teaching career, however, we acknowledge that this notion is not addressed in many teacher’s educations research, particularly in the Indonesian context. Instead, scholars focused partly on pre-service English teachers’ teaching practicum (Mudra, 2018), professional learning (Kuswandono, 2017), reasons for pursuing a teaching career (Mukminin, 2017). Given these inconclusive findings, we attempt to uncover another salient issue contributing to three Indonesian pre-service English teachers’ negotiated and situated identities geared by their past learning experiences.



In this study, we deployed a narrative research design through semi-structured interviews (Clandinin, 2013). Three Indonesian pre-service teachers were recruited utilizing a convenience sampling technique. The access to selecting these participants was from the first author’s relationship with the participants; Tufa, Tika, and Abid are close friends of the first author of this study. Although this relationship may align with researchers’ subjectivity in gathering and analyzing the data, friendship as a research methodology shares multi-layered emotional, empathy, and expressiveness voices during the interview  Albeit it may create subjectivity in data gathering and analysis (Loughran & Mannay, 2018). Thus, this model of researcher-participant relationship also allows for more detailed information shared by the researched participants. We collected the data using WhatsApp (WA) mobile application by generating questions from the interview guideline.

The interview started with a general question such as: “How is your English learning experience previously?” The conversation then continued with a more specific question inquiring about their feeling upon entering the English education department, “How is your feeling after entering this program?  Since the nature of this study was the narrative lens, the data gathered were then analyzed thematically. We investigated the emerging themes within the documented data from the three participants. Afterward, we then conducted member-checking to ensure the trustworthiness of the analysis.


Findings and discussion

With respect to the aim of the research, it was found that there were 2 major themes discussed by the participants of the study. Each would be discussed below.

Negotiating learning enactment within schooling and non-schooling context

The first theme emerging from the narrative analysis is the negotiation between self-motivation and the school and teacher conditions. The vignette voiced by Tufa portrays that her motivation, once it is well established, is confronted with the fact that her secondary school level is under-standard. Worse, this condition is added up with the teacher's low competence. She tried to negotiate the power in learning English with such unfruitful conditions. However, it results in her decreasing English speaking skills leading her to remember lessons taught previously by the English teachers at the elementary and primary school levels. It is depicted in her voice:

….Actually  I  have  enough  passion  in  learning  English….I  joined

afternoon class when elementary level…. and I began to be confident

when primary level to present my task in front of the class…. At that

time I presented procedure text I made by myself in the first grade of primary level…it continued until my secondary level. However, since my school is under-standard and the teacher was incompetent, the subject was monotonous. I did not enjoy the class… even I had no ideas at all about the lesson. My English speaking was getting worse and what I remembered was only the lesson taught by my teachers in elementary and primary levels. (Researcher Translation).

Tufa’s account informs that learners in disadvantaged circumstances are frequently undervalued in their learning (Damianakis et al., 2019). They navigate to experience better learning nuances, although the teachers do not see the efforts. In this case, Tufa is encountering learning fluctuation (Isohätälä et al., 2019). It is also known as learning participation, which changes due to varied forms of social interactions. One of these forms is influenced by social negotiation with teachers and schooling artifacts. In fact, Tufa previously engaged in learning English due to her invested emotional and social capitals supported by an excellent learning environment (Järvenoja et al., 2019). These investments are then altered since different conditions penetrate her learning.

In  another  conversation,  Tika  underwent  decent  learning experiences during senior high school, different from Tufa’s, which tends to be fluctuating. Tika negotiated her learning through pedagogical supports from the teacher. It seems that, in this case, Tika was much empowered due to such circumstances. This is seen from her account:

In senior high school, I joined an English course mandated by my school to improve my English skills. In the first class of senior high school, my teacher asked me to memorize at least 20 words of English in every meeting and in the second class, my teacher asked me to speak English a day. (Researcher Translation).

Tika’s learning experiences look very smooth and insightful for her. The support from her teacher and school policy may have contributed to her English skills during the learning process. She engaged in the mandatory English course set by her school from grade 10 to grade 11. The learning activities were much focused on memorizing English words and practicing oral English regularly. This enactment enables Tika to acquire English skills appropriately and invest herself in the learning process (Sung, 2019; Eguz, 2019; Takkaç Tulgar, 2019; Ssentanda, Southwood, & Huddlestone, 2019).

Interestingly, Abid, when asked about his impression of learning English at school, is of the opinion that his learning much takes place outside the class. He made use of extensive listening and receive inputs from watching films and English programs on TV, as well as through playing games. He contended that:

…..The most significant is firstly learning from listening and looking

at the sub-title of TV and b in English as well as game. (Researcher Translation).

Abid’s narrative captures that out-of-class learning activities in a foreign language might optimally enhance learners’ acquisition (Lou & Noels, 2019; Parkinson & Dinsmore, 2019; Butler, 2019). Listening activities done extensively may also serve as a contributing factor for L2 acquisition, as suggested by (Renandya & Farrell, 2011). These findings also confirm previous studies (Sung, 2018; Yildirim & Orsdemir, 2019; Kiss & Weninger, 2017; Lewis, 2016), documenting that out-of-class tasks enactment support English as additional language acquisition.


Multiple perspectives in pre-service teacher education

The second emerging theme unveiled in this study is multi-tenets held by the three participants. As pre-service teachers currently learning to teach, they bring with them their perspectives after reflecting on the journey of their learning in the past. Hence, multiple ideas are captured from their narrative accounts:

Tufa: I am very happy….. At first I just want to take revenge since my English score is under-standard…but then I get more than of that…. I feel lucky to have chosen English…since English is important. (Researcher Translation).

Abid: Upon studying this language (English), I become aware that English is not only about speaking and writing. I then deeply learn its varieties of use and how this use works. Specifically, I become more open-minded upon entering this department. (Researcher Translation).

Tika: At first I thought it was easy to learn. In fact, I feel more difficulties in each semester. Badly, I cannot speak English well…..and mess up, so I feel unconfident. (Researcher Translation).

Tufa seems to consider her decision to enter the English language teaching program as revenge on her past enduring learning experience. However, her tenet alters as she begins to construe the status of English as a global language, which puts importance as the value in learning this language. Unlike Tufa, Abid broadly views his current status as a globally-minded student-teacher. He embarks on accepting the linguistic diversity in English and how this should be used in the workforce. Meanwhile, Tika consistently perceives her inability as a problem leading to her unconfident position in negotiating identity during the pre-service teacher education.

These multi-perspectives in pre-service education have been researched previously (Hascher & Hagenauer, 2016; Mumford & Dikilitaş, 2020; Yuan & Lee, 2014), arguing similar ideas that myriad factors influence different beliefs contributed to the teaching practices. The three participants of this study bring their unique views, which differentiate them from one another. This leads to how they construe the relationship of the “selves” with the world (Chen, 2010; Pavlenko, 2003).



This study captures the values of the past learning experiences of three Indonesian pre-service teachers. The results documented that they negotiated their learning and investment as well as held multiple tenets in pre-service teacher education. In the context of negotiating to learn, they encountered valuable and under-valuable supports both from school facilities, teachers, and out-of-class discourses. In terms of multiple perspectives they hold, the three participants portrayed their own fluid identity in the pre-service teacher education. These findings encourage teacher professional development activities set for pre-service teachers. As being a professional teacher entails a set of pedagogical competence (Næsheim-Bjørkvik et al., 2019), the enactment of teacher professional development enhancement is also best to be implemented toward pre-service teacher teachers.



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