In Australia, pathway programs, termed `enabling' education programs, have experienced rapid growth, but remain on the periphery of the higher education sector. They are excluded from the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and there is no standards framework, leaving them vulnerable to criticism. However, recent sector collaborations through the National Association of Enabling Educators of Australia (NAEEA) suggest there is a far greater degree of cohesion across this diverse sector than is generally assumed. This study explores the characteristics of enabling education and the practices of enabling educators to determine the extent to which the field can be defined as a legitimate academic discipline. This research employs models of academic disciplines and teaching and learning regimes developed by Trowler (2014; 2020) and is underpinned by social practices theory (Reckwitz, 2002; Schatzki, 2017) which fosters a collaborative and participatory approach to enquiry. A largely qualitative case study encompassing nine Australian university enabling education programs will be undertaken through interviews with university program directors/coordinators. Interview data is supplemented with program artifacts and documents to build a rich picture of practices at each site. This data is triangulated with a thematic analysis of research by enabling teacher-researchers to build a holistic view of enabling education. The emerging framework of the discipline of enabling education will inform the continued development of teaching, learning and research practices, contribute to the development of national standards for enabling education, and lend legitimacy and cohesion to the field.
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