Instructional Highlights: School of Education’s Russ ‘disrupts’ teaching approach to deepen student learning

The School of Education’s Rosemary Russ is featured in UW–Madison’s Instructional Highlights series, which is spotlighting ways that UW–Madison instructors are working to make their virtual classrooms more engaging, inclusive, and supportive.

Photo of Rosemary Russ

Russ, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, noted the shift to online teaching as an “opportunity,” not only to recreate what she has done in face-to-face instruction, but also to disrupt it. That disruption, she said, was heavily influenced by her colleague Maxine McKinney de Royston, an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Russ said she wanted specifically to challenge the idea that academic writing is the best way to demonstrate knowledge.

“We know that the sort of academic writing we often require of our students grows out of upper-middle class, white ways of communicating,” explained Russ. “As such, the requirement that students engage in that style of writing is assimilationist; it forces everyone to adopt the modes of expression of the dominant culture.”

Instead of writing structured papers, therefore, Russ has encouraged her students to share their learning in ways that resonate with them, using any and all digital tools at their disposal. The resulting projects have included video content, and even a children’s book.

“The shift in assessment format allowed me to maintain the rigor of my course and provide equitable opportunities for engagement,” Russ said. “When they brought their full selves and varied experiences into the assessments, I was able to see the ways their learning was deeper and richer than my prior assessments had ever tapped.”

Learn more about Russ’ approach in Instructional Highlights, here.