Carol, the Assistant Headteacher, ushered Mr and Mrs McEvoy into the meeting room. James soon joined them. James was Jonathan McEvoy’s class teacher. The McEvoys had recently moved to town from a different part of the country and Jonathan had been at his new school for a week.
After introductions and an awkward pause, Mrs McEvoy started to explain the concern. “Jonathan came home and said that he was ‘not a fish’ and had to sit in a particular part of the room during maths. We just wanted to find out whether this was right and what the thinking is.”
“It is very important to us that we meet all of the many and varied individual needs of our students,” Explained Carol. “We want to differentiate appropriately to meet those needs and so the first thing we do with new students is assess them.”
“OK,” Mr McEvoy nodded, “So what does it mean that he is not a fish?”
Carol gestured to James who produced a sheet of paper from a manila folder. James was clearly nervous as he passed the paper to the McEvoys. With some encouragement from Carol, he started to speak. “It’s not that he is not a fish, Mr and Mrs McEvoy, it’s that he has the NotFish learning style.”
This did not seem to clarify things much.
James continued, “We gave him this learning styles questionnaire to complete.” James gestured at the sheet of paper and the McEvoys took it from him.
“It’s just got one question on it!” Exclaimed Mrs McEvoy. “It says, ‘do you eat fish more than once a week?’.”
“Yes,” continued James. “Those who eat fish regularly have the ‘Fish’ learning style and those that don’t have the ‘NotFish’ learning style.”
There was a pause. Mr McEvoy broke the silence. “But what has that got to do with his learning?” he asked.
Carol intervened at this point. “Fish contain crude oil,” she explained, “and crude oil affects the brain and cognition, leading to different styles and propensities.”
Mrs McEvoy looked puzzled. “How can eating fish be anything to do with learning? I don’t get it.”
“Oh it’s a highly reliable assessment,” Carol assured the parents. “We find that over 80% of students are in the same category when we test them three months later.”
“I’m not surprised!” said Mrs McEvoy, “because it’s about how much fish they eat. I just don’t see the relationship…”
Carol interrupted, “They have different cognition. Children with a NotFish learning style are differently cognitive and need different scaffolds and supports. This is why we segregate them in class for maths.”
“Are you saying that Jonathan just isn’t very bright?” Asked Mr McEvoy.
“Oh heavens no!” Insisted Carol, “he is just in a different category; he is every bit as able as any other student just maybe not cognitively.”