“To be able to set grades, we need to quantify quality, we must count it. And this in turn means that we are walking on thin ice. This is why we need to review grading critically,” says Jeremias (Jerry) Rosenqvist Aulin, visiting professor at the University of Gävle.
Jerry claims that our goal must be to find every individual’s ability to learn to think critically and understand things; there are many different ways to view knowledge, so knowledge is not something absolute.
“This is something that we often miss, our tendency to only repeat what others have said without understanding what the author really means to say.”
At the university level, lectures are the traditional form and they require that the one who listens is fully able to grasp what is said and to be committed. Jerry would rather see that lectures were combined with seminars.
“In seminars, we participate and problematise issues in a different way and there isn’t just one truth. No one has all knowledge, and no one has no knowledge, so everyone can contribute in such a discussion.”
Jerry takes the example of medical training, where one often takes a problem as the starting point. A patient has the following symptoms, what illness could it be?
“Then everyone together tries to find the answer. You have to look it up, use your experience, and so target the problem in different ways to find a reasonable answer. It is a kind of collective thinking, where ‘two heads are better than one.’ One constantly tests one’s knowledge, and in such a way one refines one’s thinking and improves quality.”
Jerry spoke to a few art teachers about what they would do if they came across a mathematical problem in connection to teaching art. The response was that they weren’t allowed to take it up as they were only authorised to teach art.
However, the subject art would be excellent for seeing things in relation to other things, since you can bring in almost all subjects into art. You could see the picture in relation to mathematics and in such a way foster different ways of becoming knowledgeable in the subject. We should be aware of the fact that a lecture isn’t enough, neither is a written test with only a certain kind of questions. Teachers need to increase their flexibility and extend their creativity and pose questions in a manner that elicits deep understanding.
According to Jerry, one usually says that special education is called for when education isn’t enough. And if we define education very narrowly, we need quite a lot of special education.
In this way, one aims for an elite, and, for different reasons, people will fall outside its scope. One may not understand the language, either because one comes from another place where other languages are spoken or because one comes from a background where the language spoken was rather meagre as it hadn’t benefited from reading and literature.
“But if we were to define education more broadly, then we wouldn’t need special education so much. And we would be able to compensate for such meagreness.”
Jerry maintains that while we must fulfil curriculums and syllabuses and all qualification requirements, we still have the opportunity to vary exams. Exams are often very traditional at the university level; you get a written exam full stop.
“Very many students feel anxious in such a situation as they lack academic tradition. They may find it difficult to express themselves, both in speech and in writing, and may even find it hard to read the instructions.”
He has a long experience in reviewing texts from different levels and he has observed that language use has deteriorated over time. It may be difficult to understand what students mean to say and therefore it becomes important that students can express their knowledge level in different ways.
“Either we continue to carry out examinations in the traditional way, or we change examination procedures by involving other aspects and inserting other elements.”
In response to the question if his way can lead to widening participation, his response is “yes.”
“But we need to work in a way which doesn’t diminish quality. That is our number one concern, otherwise we will lack in credibility.”
Inclusion and integration, to counteract a segregation, is his biggest hobbyhorse.
“Segregation is one of our main social problems and I am trying to find ways out of it that are both academically sustainable and viable. This also means that we strengthen democracy,” Jerry Rosenqvist states.
In all of his professional life, he has focused on special education with professorships in education at several different higher education institutions like Gothenburg, Kristianstad and Malmö. He has worked with special education at the university level since the 1970s and written around 80 reports.
Currently, the University of Gävle is investing in special education and aims to give support through different research projects to existing programmes as well as to the new ones starting this coming spring.