The identity conga line: How diverse lecturers perform the enabling dance

Katrina Johnston, Gemma Mann, Louise Mullaney, Brijesh Kumar


Enabling educators occupy a somewhat ambiguous space on the fringes of higher education, as they help students prepare for university study. To explore the implications of this role, four enabling educators from diverse backgrounds wrote reflections about what it means to be an enabling educator at CQUniversity in Queensland, Australia, and how this role fitted or conflicted with their other ‘identities’. These reflective pieces were then collectively analysed for themes and connections. Two main themes emerged: the highly student-focussed approach of each educator and the impact of time-pressures. Within the first theme it was found that each of the authors sought to help their students by ‘going the extra mile’. To be more student-focused, the authors maintained more flexible contact hours; and while this had the positive effect of helping students, it had a negative effect on the educators in that it conflicted with their family time. The pressures on time were also created by the multiple roles that each author had to take on while working as an enabling educator. However, as the paper shows, the common desire to help students should be tempered so that educators achieve balance with their other identities.


enabling education; emotional labour; teacher identity; collaborative autoethnography; pedagogies of care

Full Text:



Alsup, J. (2006). A teaching life. In J. Alsup (Ed.), Teacher identity discourses: negotiating personal and professional spaces (pp. 1-19). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Andrewartha, L., & Harvey, A. (2014). Willing and enabled: The academic outcomes of a tertiary enabling program in regional Australia. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 54, 50-68.

Archer, L. (2008). The new neoliberal subjects? Young/er academics’ constructions of professional identity. Journal of Education Policy, 23(3), 265-285.

Bennett, A., & Burke, P. J. (2018). Re/conceptualising time and temporality: An exploration of time in higher education. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 39(6), 913-925.

Bennett, L. (2017). Social media, academics’ identity work and the good teacher. International Journal for Academic Development, 22(3), 245-256.

Bennett, R., Hobson, J., Jones, A., Martin-Lynch, P., Scutt, C., Strehlow, K., & Veitch, S. (2016). Being chimaera: A monstrous identity for SoTL academics. Higher Education Research & Development, 35(2), 217-228.

Bennett, A., Motta, S. C., Hamilton, E., Burgess, C., Relf, B., Gray, K., Leroy-Dyer, S., & Albright, J. (2016). Enabling Pedagogies: A participatory conceptual mapping of practices at the University of Newcastle, Australia. University of Newcastle, Australia.

Bunn, R., & Westrenius, A. (2017). Enabling and changing lives: Stakeholders who affect and are affected by the enabling initiative. International Studies in Widening Participation, 4(1), 55-73.

Burke, P. J. (2017). Difference in higher education pedagogies: Gender, emotion and shame. Gender and Education, 29(4), 430-444.

Chang, M.-L. (2009). An appraisal perspective of teacher burnout: Examining the emotional work of teachers. Educational Psychology Review, 21(3), 193-218.

Chang, H. (2013). Individual and collaborative autoethnography as method. Handbook of Autoethnography (pp. 107-122). Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Chang, H., Ngunjiri, F. W., & Hernandez, K.-A. C. (2016). Collaborative autoethnography (Vol. 8). New York: Routledge.

Crawford, N., Olds, A., Lisciandro, J., Jaceglav, M., Westacott, M., & Osenieks, L. (2018). Emotional labour demands in enabling education: A qualitative exploration of the unique challenges and protective factors. Student Success, 9(1), 23-33.

Duncan, R., Tilbrook, K., & Krivokapic-Skoko, B. (2015). Does academic work make Australian academics happy? Australian Universities’ Review, 57(1), 5.

Flecknoe, S. J., Choate, J. K., Davis, E. A., Hodgson, Y. M., & Johanesen, P. A. (2017). Redefining academic identity in an evolving higher education landscape. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 14(2), 1-18.

Foster, McAllister & O’Brien (2006). Extending the boundaries: Autoethnography as an emergent method in mental health nursing research. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 15(1), 44-53.

Gray, C., Wilcox, G., & Nordstokke, D. (2017). Teacher mental health, school climate, inclusive education and student learning: A review. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 58(3), 203-210.

Hockings, C., Cooke, S., Yamashita, H., McGinty, S., & Bowl, M. (2009). ‘I’m neither entertaining nor charismatic ...’ negotiating university teacher identity within diverse student groups. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(5), 483-494.

Isenbarger, L., & Zembylas, M. (2006). The emotional labour of caring in teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(1), 120-134.

Kidder, L. H., & Fine, M. (1987). Qualitative and quantitative methods: When stories converge. New Directions for Program Evaluation, 1987(35), 57-75.

Kinman, G., Wray, S., & Strange, C. (2011). Emotional labour, burnout and job satisfaction in UK teachers: The role of workplace social support. Educational Psychology, 31(7), 843-856.

Lisciandro, J. G., Jones, A., & Geerlings, P. (2018). Enabling learners starts with knowing them: Student attitudes, aspiration and anxiety towards science and maths learning in an Australian pre-university enabling program. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 58(1), 13.

Loonstra, B., Brouwers, A., & Tomic, W. (2009). Feelings of existential fulfilment and burnout among secondary school teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5), 752-757.

Martin, B. (2011). On being a happy academic. Australian Universities’ Review, 53(1), 50.

McNaughton, S. M., & Billot, J. (2016). Negotiating academic teacher identity shifts during higher education contextual change. Teaching in Higher Education, 21(6), 644-658.

Motta, S. (2012, June 14). Beautiful transgressions | The messiness of motherhood in the marketised university. Ceasefire.

Motta, S. C., & Bennett, A. (2018). Pedagogies of care, care-full epistemological practice and ‘other’ caring subjectivities in enabling education. Teaching in Higher Education, 23(5), 631-646.

Motta, S., Daley, L., & Barker, B. (n.d.). The Politics of Motherhood in the Neoliberal University. The University of Newcastle, Australia.

Ngunjiri. F. W., Hernandez, K.-A. C., & Chang, H. (2010). Living Autoethnography: Connecting Life and Research. Journal of Research Practice, 6(1), E1.

Pitman, T., & Trinidad, S. (2016). Pathways to higher education: the efficacy of enabling and sub-bachelor pathways for disadvantaged students: National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Curtin University, Australia.

Riddle, S., Harmes, M. K., & Danaher, P. A. (2017). Producing Pleasure in the Contemporary University. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Seary, K., Willans, J., & Cook, C. (2016). Design for success: Did we get it right? Measuring the success of STEPS as a remodelled CQUniversity enabling offering. International Studies in Widening Participation, 3(1), 4-18.

Walker, C., & Gleaves, A. (2016). Constructing the caring higher education teacher: A theoretical framework. Teaching and Teacher Education, 54(C), 65-76.

Willans, J. (2019). Tales from the borderland: Enabling students’ experiences of preparation for higher education. International Studies in Widening Participation, 6(1), 48-64.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Banner image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), movement score 01 (detail): oil stick and acrylic on paper. Photograph by Kira Jovanovski. Cover image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), grunt_iteration 02 in the boughs and stamped: installation in University Gallery. Photograph by Jedidiah Cranfield. (c) the artist.





This journal is published on the lands of the Pambalong Clan of the Awabakal People.

ISSN 2653-245X