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DipTchg, BA, PGDipArts, MA, PhD

Tel +64 3 479 5789

Learning Sciences Research Cluster

About Russell


My work is primarily dedicated to transforming education into a dynamic experience that is tailored to learners' aspirations, advocating a shift from traditional content-centric methods to a context-centric approach, which prioritises real-world relevance. This approach is influenced by the rich traditions of Te Ao Māori and Pacific communities, focusing on nurturing students' ambitions while emphasising the importance of meaningful relationships, leadership, and achievement. To accomplish this, I emphasise the integration of emerging technologies, with a focus on liberating and empowering students to become authentic, critical, and innovative thinkers. This approach is not only about imparting knowledge; it is dedicated to nurturing curiosity and fostering creativity, thereby enabling students to explore and grow in an environment that aligns with their individual interests and potential.

Learning and teaching

In 2024, my teaching and learning initiatives will concentrate on advancing cultural sensitivity, fostering technological innovation, and empowering students through transformative educational practices.

  • Transforming educational methods from traditional content-centric to a context-centric approach, emphasizing authentic, situated learning with real-world relevance.
  • Integrating the rich traditions of Te Ao Māori and Pacific communities to nurture students' ambitions, foster meaningful relationships, leadership, and academic achievement.
  • Employing emerging technologies like AR, VR, AI, wearable devices, and Cloud Computing to enhance the educational experience.
  • Designing learning conditions that liberate and empower students to become authentic, critical, and innovative thinkers.

Digital learning and teaching environments

Alongside my teaching and research, I oversee several innovative digital platforms designed to enhance the learning experience. I welcome inquiries and discussions about these dynamic educational platforms:

  • The Education Network: A collaborative platform facilitating connections and resource-sharing across the teaching divisions.
  • xOtago: A self-paced, modular learning environment offering flexible and personalized educational pathways.
  • Teams for Teaching: For staff interested in using Microsoft Teams to create a more social learning and teaching experience.

Research interests

My research is primarily applied and focused on addressing emerging problems that are associated with the 21st century educational landscape and include

  • The science of learning
  • Experiential learning
  • Artificial intelligence in education
  • New educational research methods/methodologies


I am available to supervise postgraduates in higher education who wish to undertake research into any aspect of academic life/teaching/learning within professional and university settings, particularly where there is a focus on my research interests.

Please feel free to contact me directly to discuss your ideas.


Current students

  • Patrick Mazzocco (PhD) Lifelong learning through career breaks
  • David Coburn (MHEd) Enhancing hospital dentistry education in dental undergraduate curricula: A case study of New Zealand dental schools

Past students

  • Farah Shawkat (PhD) Teacherpreneurship and the digital learning landscape in higher education. 2022
  • Larian Nkomo (PhD) Students' engagement patterns with digital learning technologies: An empirical case of lecture recordings. 2022
  • Ifeanyi Glory Ndukwe (PhD) Teaching analytics and teacher dashboards to visualise SET data: Implication to theory and practice. 2021
  • Miriam Gibson (PhD) Making Meaning: The role of activity in learning. 2020
  • Taylor Wilson (MHEd) An exploration of learning and performance in high-fidelity critical care simulation through the use of data sensors. 2020
  • Kait O'Callahan (MHEd) Life's Nurse: Exploring the Impact of Sleep on Performance and Wellbeing in Medical Imaging Students Using Fitbit Devices. 2020
  • Senorita John (PhD) Mining reality to explore the 21st century student experience. 2019
  • Belinda Lawrence (PhD) Individual, Institutional and Environmental Factors Influencing Online Distance Tertiary Teaching in New Zealand. 2019
  • Hamid Mahroeian (PhD) Big Data and Analytics in Higher Education. 2018
  • Nick Baker (MHEd) The Dynamics of Online Group Learning. 2017
  • Senorita John (MHEd) An investigation into the study practices of health science students. 2016
  • Kwong Nui Sim (PhD) An investigation into the way PhD students utilise ICT to support their doctoral research process. 2015
  • Suzie Bartlett (MHEd) Use of Actor-based Simulations in Heath Education. 2015
  • Dallas Knight (PhD) Digital Channels in healthcare service delivery. 2014
  • Belinda Lawrence (PGDipHighE) Web Based Technology Use in Online and Distance Learning. 2013
  • Kwong Nui Sim (MA) The importance of personal computers in Higher Education. 2012
  • Khalaf Alsalm (MSc) Factors and Characteristics of Successful Research Collaboration and E-collaboration Tools, 2011


Butson, R., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2024). AI and its implications for research in higher education: A critical dialogue. Higher Education Research & Development, 43(3), 563-577. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2023.2280200 Journal - Research Article

Thong, C. L., Butson, R., & WeiLee, L. (2023). Understanding the impact of ChatGPT in education: Exploratory study on students' attitudes, perception and ethics. In T. Cochrane, V. Narayan, C. Brown, K. MacCallum, E. Bone, C. Deneen, … B. Hurren (Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) Conference: Innovation, Practice and Research in the Use of Educational Technologies in Tertiary Education: People, Partnerships and Pedagogies. (pp. 234-243). doi: 10.14742/apubs.2023.461 Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Full paper

Barnes, T., Lesche, S., Butson, R., & Wright, D. (2023). Fostering authenticity in undergraduate surgical education: An innovative approach to teaching in the operating theatre. ANZ Journal of Surgery, 93(Suppl. 1), (pp. 179). doi: 10.1111/ans.18394 Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Butson, R., Barnes, T., & Wright, D. (2023). Fostering authenticity in surgical education: Creating a safe space for medical students to practice as doctors. Journal of Surgical Education, 80(2), 159-165. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2022.08.014 Journal - Research Other

Shawkat, F., Daniel, B., & Butson, R. (2022). Teacherpreneurship: An integrated framework and its practicality among the 21st century university teachers. In E. Heinrich, A. Jolley & L. Rowan (Eds.), Proceedings of the Tertiary Education Research in New Zealand (TERNZ) Conference. (pp. 62-63). HERDSA Aotearoa/New Zealand. [Abstract] Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

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