Emotional labour demands in enabling education: A qualitative exploration of the unique challenges and protective factors
Students in enabling programs bring richness, diversity, and complexity to the teaching and learning environment. They are often from under-represented backgrounds, have experienced educational disadvantage or disruption, belong to multiple equity groups, and face academic and non-academic challenges, including mental ill-health. This pilot study explored academic staff experiences in teaching and supporting students in enabling programs. Using a collaborative autoethnographical approach, four members of a multi-institutional research group wrote first-person reflections in response to guiding questions. From generative and reflective discussions, different themes arose. A major theme was the high ‘emotional labour demands’ of teaching a vulnerable cohort, with both positive and negative effects on staff. Other major themes included: the diversity of emotional responses and coping strategies; the complex, sometimes contradictory, role of the enabling educator; the importance of communities of care and support; and the impact of witnessing students’ transformations. Within these themes, the challenges, rewards, and protective factors, which mitigate stress among enabling educators, were identified.