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Looking into the “Dark Mirror”: Autoethnographic Reflections on the Impact of COVID-19 and Change Fatigue on the Wellbeing of Enabling Practitioners

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic brought global disruptions to the way universities operate. Online learning abruptly took priority, as the physical campuses in Australian universities became deserted. Staff had to instantly adapt to major changes in work practices, whilst continuing to support students’ engagement and maintain quality teaching and learning. This article discusses how change fatigue during the pandemic impacted the wellbeing of staff working in the enabling education sector. As staff and student wellbeing is interdependent, gaining a better understanding of the influences on staff wellbeing in the post-pandemic era is worth exploring in the context of discussions around student wellbeing and success. Autoethnographical reflections of eight practitioners at six Australian universities working in teaching, leadership and professional practice in enabling education, were thematically analysed. Emergent data reveals the superordinate theme of change fatigue and sub-themes of time, online fatigue, and emotional labour. This article highlights the impact of workload intensification and change fatigue in educators. Our findings demonstrated that practitioners prioritise their workload and students, to the detriment of their own wellbeing. These findings hold relevance for institutions as they look to address student wellbeing and success, and highlights the value of embedding cultures of care and compassion across all levels of the university.

Published: 2023-12-11
Pages:41 to 52
Section:Articles
How to Cite
Jones, A., Hopkins, S., Larsen, A., Lisciandro, J., Olds, A., Westacott, M., Sturniolo-Baker, R., & Subramaniam, J. . (2023). Looking into the “Dark Mirror”: Autoethnographic Reflections on the Impact of COVID-19 and Change Fatigue on the Wellbeing of Enabling Practitioners. Student Success, 14(3), 41-52. https://doi.org/10.5204/ssj.2779

Author Biographies

Edith Cowan University
Australia Australia

Dr Angela Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Access and Equity, and course coordinator of UniPrep programs at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia. She is a passionate enabling educator and advocate for social justice education. Her current research projects focus on enabling education, learning communities and popular culture. She is a self-confessed EduPunk.

University of Southern Queensland
Australia Australia

Susan Hopkins is an Associate Professor of communications based in UniSQ College at the University of Southern Queensland, Springfield campus, Australia. Susan holds a Ph.D. in social science and a Masters (Research) in education. Her research interests include enabling education, gender and media studies.

Central Queensland University
Australia Australia

Ana Larsen - With a multidisciplinary background Ana works at CQUniversity in the STEPS enabling program and providing academic support as an advisor in the Academic Learning Centre. Formerly Ana taught diverse students in the enabling program at Federation University which included academic writing and study skills. Ana is currently working towards her PhD which examines the specific factors which develop self-efficacy among enabling students. She is an associate member of the Centre for Research in Equity and Advancement of Teaching and Education (CREATE) and the facilitator of multiple special interest groups within national organisations. Ana’s research interests include social equity discourses in higher education, staff and student wellbeing and the impact of neoliberalism. 

Murdoch University
Australia Australia

Dr Joanne Lisciandro is a Lecturer in University Preparation Pathways at Murdoch University in Western Australia, and has worked in enabling education for over ten years. Her research interests focus on understanding the mechanisms that support the wellbeing, retention, success and achievement of non-traditional students in their transition to university.

Murdoch University
Australia Australia

Anita Olds is a lecturer and the Unit Coordinator of the FlexiTrack High pre-university enabling program at Murdoch University, Western Australia. She brings to the enabling space 20 years of diverse teaching experience. Her research focus is on authentic and engaging enabling programs, holistic curriculum design and the emotional labour demands on educators.

University of the Sunshine Coast
Australia Australia

Marguerite  Westacott has a multidisciplinary background in Visual Arts, Education, Guidance and Counselling and Art Therapy; therefore, her work history has been in education, private practice, small business and the community sector, where she continues to volunteer. Her employment roles have included teaching, leadership, counselling, art therapy, consulting, curriculum development and governance.  In Marguerite’s role as a course coordinator and tutor at UniSC, she has enjoyed creating innovative learning experiences that include embedding mental health and wellbeing, game-based learning and career development into curriculum. Her multidisciplinary background has now culminated in her current PhD focus which is a study using art-led research to explore the implications of concepts from the field of Futures Studies on career education curriculum. Why? Because career is about people’s actions and our actions have implications for the world we live in. Using a Futures focus, as informed by the field of Futures Studies, I am interested in whether this could impact career education in a way that might inform human actions that could be better placed to serve the inhabitants (human and non-human) of our world. 

Murdoch University
Australia Australia

Dr Rebekah Sturniolo-Baker is a Lecturer and Unit Coordinator of the FlexiTrack High program at Murdoch University, which is an alternative pathway program for Year 12 students. After previously working as a language teacher and academic, she has now been teaching in enabling programs for over seven years. Her research focus is on ways to promote active learning and student engagement, as well as improving academic writing skills for enabling students. She believes strongly in promoting enabling programs as a way to provide opportunities for all students no matter their socio-economic or social background.  

Western Sydney University
Australia Australia

Juliette Subramaniam is the Manager, Retention & Progression in Academic Pathway Programs (APP) at Western Sydney University, The College. Juliette is responsible for overseeing and implementing The College’s retention strategy and facilitating a supportive student learning environment by developing, implementing, evaluating and modifying initiatives to support students.  Juliette has worked in the education sector for over fifteen years, including VET and Higher Education, and was recently recognised for her work and appointed as Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Juliette’s ethos has been influenced by Tinto’s (2008) widening participation agenda in higher education and that ‘access without support is not opportunity’.  Juliette is passionate about fostering early student engagement with purposeful strategies to ensure student engagement, retention and transition into University.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2205-0795