ICETA 7 || 7th International Conference on Educational Technology of Adi Buana
Conference Proceedings || 13 Maret 2016 || ISBN: 978-979-3870-50-2
Penerbit : Universitas PGRI Adi Buana Surabaya

Penulis  : Salim Nabhan



Reflective learning has been supporting the teaching and learning process. Literature suggests several methods to encorage student’s reflection. The aim of the research is to investigate the use of journal writing to know students’ perception and comprehension about teaching and learning process in English as Foreign Language Classroom towards student’s self awareness and  critical thinking. A qualitative research was conducted. The students’ learning experinces through portfolio in the form of journal were analysed for data of the research. The subject of the research was the first year students of English Education Department, University of PGRI Adi Buana Surabaya, Indonesia.

The Students attended one semester (16 meetings) program of Intensive English Course as one of the subjects in the English Education Department.  The information obtained from the students was based on researcher’s experience in utilizing the journal as a reflective medium in the classroom. The result indicated that the journal helped students to recognize their feeling and create deeper insight of English teaching and learning towards self-awarness and critical thinking development.  

Keywords: Reflective learning, student journal, students’ perception, critical thinking



Reflection has been widely performed by individuals to recall the events or experiences. In the context of English language teaching and learning, reflection can be used either by the teachers or the students themselves. The reflective learning engages the students to reflect the students’ classroom activities. The teachers need to know and understand well what the students feel or assume towards their teaching practice, moreover when they face the students with different learning style. Hillier (2005: 63) has identified individual learning style. Students have not only different level of knowledge but also different way of learning and preferences. If we notice our teaching activities, some learners may enjoy the activities  and some learners may not. It may happen when the teaching activities do not meet the learners’ preferences in learning style. This indicates that teachers need information from the students regarding what the students prefer. Kolb (1984 as citec by Hiller, 2005: 65) divides four types of preferences. They are an accomodator who learns best by doing and feeling, a diverger who likes to undergo experience and reflect, a converger who prefers thinking and doing, an assimilator who prefers watching and thinking. If teachers have those students with different types of learning style, they must ensure that the learners learn well. Techers need to identify the learners’ need in terms of their feeling and expectation, the material of the lessons, and other requirments.

The reseacher is aware of the importance of reflective learning and considers using journal as the medium in teaching Intensive Course Subject to the first year students in English Education Department. Therefore, the of aim of the research is to investigate the use of journal writing to know students’ perception and comprehension in English as Foreign Language Classroom towards students’ self awareness and  critical thinking.



1. The Nature of Reflective Learning

In the discussion of terminology, Moon (2004: 80) defines that the concept of reflection is represented into ‘reflection’ itself, ‘reflective learning’, ‘reflective writing’, and ‘reflective practice’. ‘Reflection’ is a process related to learning and thinking. Therefore, ‘reflective learning’ is emphasized on the intention to learn as the result of reflection. ‘Reflective writing’ represents the process within the choosen medium. Writing is the medium. While, ‘reflective practice’, according to Schon (1983, 1987 cited by  Moon, 2004: 80), focusing on the using of reflection in professional or other complex activities as a means of copyng with situations that are unpredictable. It is a new phrase that was developed in nursing and teacher education and is being applied in other professions. This study will focus on reflective learning using journal writing as a reflective method.

In EFL Classroom, reflection process can stimulate the students to evaluate what they have learned as well as promote the students to have critical thinking and self-awarness towards English learning and teaching. Further, Moon (2004: 84) suggests the outcomes as the results of reflective process: learning, knowledge, and understanding; some forms of action; a process of critical review; personal and continuing professional development; reflection on the process of learning or personal functioning (metacognition); the building of theory from observation in practice situations; the making of decisions/resolution of uncertainty, the solving of problems; empowerement and emantipations; unexpected outcomes (e.g., images, ideas that could be solutions to dilemma or seen as creative activities); emotion (that can be an outcome or can be part of the process); clarification and recognition that there is a need for firther reflection.

There are different dimensions of reflection depending on the situation and times including narrative reflection that describes the event and what happens, percipient reflection that tells about the perception and reactions involved, analytical reflection that describes about the situation analytically, evaluative reflection which evaluates the experince, and critical reflection that considers implication for the future (Brocbank & McGill, 2007:126-127).

Reflection is an integral part of experiential learning in which real experience becomes the basis of reflection and observation, and  the reflection becomes the abstract conceptualization that produces the active experimentation and creates new experince (Kolb, 1984, as cited in Zwosdiak-Myers, 2011: 28-29) as shown in the following figure.


Figure 1: Model of Experiential Learning


Ryan, & Ryan (2015: 19-25) underline the importance of teaching reflective learning  in higher education level in which the assessment is commonly embedded in the course objectives, learning outcomes, or professional standards. Two models of pedagofical fields of  reflection in in higher education are proposed, the category-based on dimension which deals with the level of thinking or higher order thinking skill and the development-based dimension which deals with the progression of program or course accross time. It is called Teaching and Assessing Reflective Learning  Model (TARL Model). Therefore, reflection is implemented as consistent developmental process.


2.2. Journal and the Process of Learning

In promoting students’ reflection through classroom activities, Paris & Ayres (2004: 61) suggest some activities such as portfolios, surveys, inventories, conferences, and journals. Each activity done by the teacher provides the students to have self evaluation of their work and abilities. Journal creates personal links between the students and the teacher. Journal is analytic in the sense that the students reflect what they have experienced during teaching and learning process in the classroom.  Journal records the experiences, thoughts, and feelings about particular aspects of life, or with specific structures (Bolton, 2010: 128). Journal can record everything depending on the issue that it pertains. A journal can consist of a set of questions about who, what, where, how, and why.

Richards & Lockhart (2007: 6-7) suggests writing journal as a written response to teaching events in which it can serve the purpose of recording the the events and ideas for later reflection and helping trigger insights about teaching. The discovery process is found in the the writing journal. Many different classroom experiences can be explored through writing journal such as personal reactions faced during learning process, some problems in teaching, and some ideas or suggestion for future improvement.

The use of students journal can be beneficial for students to learn from their experience. Therefore it is significant to explore the process of learning from experince. That’s why, “all learning is learning from experience� (Moon, 2006: 21). In Addition, Moon (2006: 44-51) suggests some purposes of journal-writing. They are to record experience, to facilitate learning from experience, to support understanding and the representation of the understanding, to develop critical thinking or the development of question attitude, to encourage metacognition, to increase acive involvement in and ownership of learning, to increase ability  in reflection and thinking, to enhance problem-solving skills, as means of assesment in formal education, to enhance reflective practice, for reasons of personal development and self-empowerment, for therapeutic purposes or as a means of supporting behaviour change, to enhance creativity, to improve writing, to improve or give ‘voice’; as a means of self-expression, to foster communication and to foster reflective and creative interaction in a group, to support planning and progress in research or a project, and as a means of communication between a learner and another.


2.3. Self Awareness and Critical Thinking

One of the objectives of learning is that how to develop the students’ awareness and critical thinking, so students’ are aware of themselves in the sense of how they respond and behave towards the teaching and learning activities. By this way, the students are invited to think critically. Journal writing is one of the suggested media in promoting reflective learning.

Some researchers have defined the term of critical thinking. Haskins (2006:2) states that critical thinking is “a process by which we use our knowledge and intelligence to effectively arrive at the most reasonable and justifiable positions on issues, and which endeavors to identify and overcome the numerous hindrances to rational thinking.�. Facione (1998:12) asserts that critical thinking is “the process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgment. This process reasoned consideration to evidence, contenxt, conceptualizations, methods, and criteria.� There are 6 main skills of critical thinking, as describred by Facione (1998), including self- regulation, interpretation, analysis, enference, explanantion, and evaluation.


Figure 2. Core Critical Thinking Skills (Facione, P.A.: 1998)


Previous research concerning reflective learning from different field has shown the the benefits of using journal writing. The reseach by Letch (2012) found that reflective journal is potential in teaching BPM (Business Process Management). In the field of English as Foreign Language Classroom, according to Ragawanti (2009), Students’ journal is applicable to look at students’ belief in teaching and learning English.



The subject of the research is the First Semester of English Education Department, University of PGRI Adi Buana Surabaya, Indonesia. The students were class B consisted of 39 students. The students attended one semester (16 meetings) program of Intensive English Course as one of the subjects in the English Education Department. The objective of the course  is to prepare and develop students’ ability of general English. The course covers four English Language Skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and English Language Components (Grammar, Vocabulary Building, and Pronunciation). The course were taught by two lecturers. The researcher was one of the lecturers of the course. Writing students’ journal was one of the tasks given to the students and submitted in the end of each topic (every two meetings) as a reflective medium. The researcher conducted qualitative research by analysing the portfolio of the students’ journal writing as the data of the research.

This writing journal activity was given to the students to let them share what they had experinced during teaching and learning process. Besides, the activity was also intended as writing practice. Lecturer corrected the grammar and vocabulary based on the writing assessment rubric. The journal consisted of the information about what they felt, what they learnt, and what they suggested.  The questions were as follows:

  1. Write a Topic/General Sentence about the Intensive Course Meeting
  2. Write what happened (description of event).
  3. Write what you felt or feel about it.
  4. Write what you have learned from the meeting.
  5. Write what you hope and/or plan for the future.
  6. End your writing. Write a final remark of the meeting or your feelings.

Based on those content of the journal, researcher then grouped them into the catagory of students’ perception about the learning and teaching procesee, students’ comprehension about the learning outcomes, and students’ self-awareness and critical thinking.



4.1. Students’ Perception about the Teaching and Learning Process

This section focuses on the students’ perception regarding the running of teaching and learning in the classroom. It discusses about what the students feel towards the classroom activities delivered by the lecturers. This section also deals with how the students respond to the lectures’ performance concerning with the classroom management. The students’ responses can be positive or negative depending on how the classroom is managed.  These responses can be very beneficial for the lecturers to evaluate the activities done by the students in the classroom.


Table 1: Extracts from Students’ Journal of Item 1-3

1 The way of the teacher, I like it because it makes me understand. The way of teaching is enjoyable, so I can understand, for example I can talk about people in my house (Student 5)
2 I enjoyed in the class today because we studied together with our group (Student 1)
3 I felt that article group discussion in the class was useful because it not only improved our English sepaking or our ability to communicate with our friends, but also facilitated us to share knowledge to one another (Student 35)
4 I felt very nervous because I could not sepak fluently when I explained my daily activities to my friends (Student 20)
5 I felt confused in IC Class because sometimes I did not understand (Student 3)
6 I like it because explaining in front of students and lecturer makes me brave and confident to explain article in English language although I am very nervous (Student 5)
7 I felt happy about article discussion yesterday bacause it was interesting article (Student 9)


From the table above, It can be seen that how the students’ journal revealed what the students felt towards the teaching and learning process. Student 5 (first row) felt positive to the lesson, as the student enjoyed and could understand the lesson. Student 1 and 35 (Second and third rows) indicated that group discussion technique used by the lecturer was proven to be effective and succesful to give to the students. The technique was used to teach an article for speaking practice. Student 35 got the advantages not only improving the speaking skill but also sharing the ideas among the students.

This journal also revealed the students’ problem in the classroom. Forth and fifth rows reflected the students’ feeling during classroom activities. Student 20 felt nervous when the student presented the material in front of the students. The student did not have self confidence regarding the speaking ability. In addition, Student 3 faced the difficulty in understanding the lessons given by the lecturer, but the student did not mention the reason why the student did not understand. In connection with the mentality problems of the students, Student 6 (shown in row 6) believed that by practicing in front of the class, the student was more confident and brave. Therefore the student gave a positive respond towards such activity.

Another aspect regarding the students’ perception found from the students’ journal was dealing with the topic of the materials. The student was motivated to engage in the classroom activities, as the topic given was very interesting. It was shown in the last row telling that Student 9 was very happy to discuss the topic because the topic was interesting.


4.2. Students’ Comprehension about the Learning Outcomes

This section discusses about the learning ourcomes understood by the students. The journal evaluates how far the students received the lesson given by the lecturer. This section also give the description how the students reflected the lesson as the self-reflection and self-evaluation towards the lesson. Three different meetings with different topics are presented in the extracts of students’ journal below.  The first is unit 1 with the topic My Personal Information, the second is unit 2 with the topic Talking about People, and the third is unit 3 with the topic Everyday Activities.


Table 2: Extracts from Students’ Journal of Item 4

1 I learnt about time and map in IC Class last Monday because we have to know about it so we can apply it in our daily activity (Student 3)
2 I learnt about telling the time, how to ask and give direction, syllable, word stress, talking about people (describing an object), and group discussion on each article about…. (Student 39)
3 I learnt about how to make a resume well and how to use preferences in the classroom. I could understand the explanation because the lecturers explained very clearly and well understanding (Student 37)
4 The first I’ve learnt about the difference between resume and CV. The resume is more spesific than CV. The second I’ve learnt about using prefer, would rather, would prefer and so on. Besides that, I have learnt about how making new years’ resolution (Student 17)
5 I got many knowledge from this presentation because every group there were different topic in the class today (Student 1)
6 We need to excercise  a lot in IC Course because for me this is very important to improve the quality of  learner’s language (Student 19)


The journal gave the idea about how the students wrote the journal regarding the topic given and how they organized their writing to cover sub topics given by the lecturer into the journal. The journal was also used to measure how far they understood the lesson. From the table above, first and second rows (Student 3 and Student 39) indicated that both students gave different idea about the lesson. Student 39 went into detail. This might show that Student 39 followed more the lesson than Student 3. The same thing happened to the third and forth rows. Student 17 gave more information regarding the lesson written in the journal. This might indicate that Student 17 gave more attention to all the lessons.

The next finding showed that the students could understand beyond the matterials given. Fifth and Sixth rows shows that Student 1 underlined the benefits of group presentation, as the student got more knowledge from the techniques used, and Student 19 expected to have more practice and excerice. However, students have reflected how far they have learnt and experienced during the teaching and learning process.


4.3 Students’ Self Awareness and Critical Thinking

This section focuses on students’ self awareness and critical thinking. The journal encourages and stimulates the students to think deeply regarding the the course, so it can develop their self-awareness and critical thinking. It also facilitates the students to write what they expect from the lecturer. The students’ expectation can be about the techniques used, activities, or topics of the lesson. Besides, it also opens the feedback from the students. The journal is very useful medium for lecturer to evaluate him/herself concerning their way of teaching and the materials which are selected. Therefore, after avaluation, the lecturer can prepare the lesson plan very well in the future.


Table 3 : Extracts from Students’ Journal of Item 5 and 6

1 The end of my journal, I just want to say that I love this course because it is very necessary for my future life (Student 38)
2 I hope I can increase my English skill in the society in the future because I want to be a professional teacher (Student 37)
3 I hope I can be successful person and useful for all the people because I want to make my parents excited and proud of having a daughter like me in this world (Student 6)
4 I want to study hard to understand the material because I want to get a good grade (Student 15)
5 I think this IC is really great and I fell confortable to join this IC because it is very useful for next level (Student 24)
6 I will turn off my mobile phone in the class while studying because it can help me to focus and study well (Student 22)


From the above table, it can be concluded that students were motivated to join the course. Student 38 (the first row) came to understand about the importance of studying English. It indicated that self-awareness had developed well. Row 2-4 also gave the idea of the students’ motivations in learning English. They expected to have skills in English very well. Student 37 wanted to be professional teacher, Student 6 wanted to be succesful person that can make the parent proud of the students, and Student 15 wanted to get good mark. However, they have used their mind to think critically based on their capacity. They did not only join the class, but also brought their motivation to the class.

Another finding revealed, when Student 22 (sixth row) presented the article about using mobile phone in the classroom, the student came to realize that that mobile phone could disturb the student’s focus to the lesson. The journal mediated him to have self-evaluation. Through the journal, the student could move from a surface understanding to a deeper understanding. Self-awareness was also developed. The student became more critical and analytical thinker.



Reflective learning is an active process that the students are evaluating the the experince of teaching and learning. Reflection is an important skill to develop for the students, since it can help the students to improve their way of learning from their experinces. Writing journal is one of the media to promote reflective learning. To conclude, reflective learning using students journal were beneficial for both the students and the lectures. Students’ journal writing helped both parties in teaching and learning process. Lectures knew the students’ perceptions and understanding about the lesson. The students also had self reflection and develop their self-awareness and critical thinking. Since the research focused on the writing journal in which students had to be able to develop their idea into good sentences, the writing skill was also needed to be taught to the students.

After knowing the benefits of student’s writing journal in promoting reflective learning, it is recommended that the further research be undertaken in the areas of reflective learning using other media such as portfolios, surveys, inventories, and conferences. More broadly, the research can be also conducted for other field.



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