Skip to main content

Is teacher looping something schools should think about?

FRIDAY, JUNE 19, 2015 10:46 AM

Teacher looping is a concept that's been around for a long time, although it has recently seen a resurgence in popularity. Looping refers to the practice of a teacher staying with the same group of students for two or more consecutive years. In other words, a class's kindergarten teacher would continue teaching the same students as they progress into first grade, and potentially even beyond. But is this teaching method effective? Research has found several potential advantages and disadvantages of looping.

Advantages of looping
Most education experts can see some very significant merits of having teachers spend more than one year with their students. Much of teaching is building relationships, both with students and their parents. Teachers learn their pupils' strengths and weaknesses, as well as which teaching methods do and don't work for individual children. Building these connections is important for the growth of both the teacher and his or her students. In fact, some studies have shown that the ongoing relationship can improve students' learning. A study from East Tennessee State University discovered that third- and fourth-grade students who had been in a two-year looping program scored higher on three out of four assessments at the end of fourth grade, than students who had two separate teachers. 

Other research has found looping to benefit a more unique student population: students with learning disabilities. A 2011 case study discovered that a small group of students with disabilities who'd gone through a two-year looping program during third and fourth grade didn't show improved academic skills, but they did show developed emotional and social skills. The deeper teacher-student connection was an obvious advantage for helping them improve upon these abilities.

Disadvantages of looping
So, if looping seems to benefit students academically and socially, what are the disadvantages? For one thing, it's not a good situation for teachers and students who don't get along, or for students who don't learn well from a particular teaching style. Looping keeps everyone in the same negative scenario for longer than a traditional approach would. Another potential disadvantage for students? They can become too attached to a certain teacher, and find it difficult to move on after the looping program is over. In this way, looping could make children averse to change. For teachers, the education style can be difficult because it prevents them from growing as comfortable as possible in certain subject areas. The difference between math from second to fourth grade is huge, for instance, which means teachers could struggle to instruct certain subjects effectively.