“I always seem to have been helping and caring for others”: Reflections of a long-time enabling educator

Julie Willans


In this paper I use autoethnography to draw on aspects of my extensive experiences as an educator in the Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies (STEPS) pre-university preparatory course in order to examine some significant changes in the way enabling education in Australia has been conceived of and enacted over the past decade. Fundamentally, I seek to illustrate these changes by exploring how my own various encounters with students and colleagues have impacted and shaped me, and, in turn, influenced many of my philosophical beliefs and pedagogical practices. Upon providing a contextualisation portraying my predisposition to help and care for others, I proceed with a chronology of how STEPS, in which I have taught for 18 years, has been impacted, like other enabling programs, by economic, political, strategic and other imperatives, diluting the once content-rich and student-centred course to a more skills-focused, competency-based version. While I acknowledge the justification for such changes over the last decade, I convey the sense of disenchantment this has caused me as an enabling educator who places a strong focus on student care. I conclude with a plea to enabling educators to vehemently champion the uniqueness of enabling students in their educational institutions, and to ensure that planning and delivery of enabling courses forever foregrounds the students’ many strengths, not their shortcomings.


enabling education; autoethnography; pedagogies of care; relational aspects of learning; neoliberalism

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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.





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