Looping, in education, refers to the practice of a teacher remaining with the same group of students for more than one school year. For example, a teacher who teaches a third grade class and then goes on to teach the same students, the following year, for the fourth grade.
This is distinct from the teacher of a multi-age class, who teaches a specific range of school grades together. In this case, although each child remains with the same teacher for multiple years, the group of students being taught changes annually as older children leave the group and are replaced by younger students entering.
Looping is usual in Waldorf education, where the traditional goal has been for a primary teacher to remain as the lead teacher of a class for eight consecutive years, though in conjunction with numerous specialized teachers; over the last decades, many schools have been reducing the loop to a shorter interval.
Educational advantages to having a single teacher have been found, including:
- Teachers gain extra teaching time.
- Teachers increase their knowledge about a child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses increases in a way that is impossible to achieve in a single year,
- Improved standardized test scores.
- Long term teacher-student relationships have been noted to result in an emotional and intellectual climate that encourages thinking, risk-taking, and involvement.
Potential disadvantages of looping include:
- Restricting the ability of teacher to perfect a lesson through repetition
- Conflict/tension between students and teachers is not always resolved
- Lapses in an instructor's teachings aren't necessarily corrected later on by a different instructor
- A single teacher defines the character of the individual class, meaning each class carries with it its own unique and observable strengths and weaknesses throughout the looping grades.
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One school, DeGrazia Elementary School, which offers a looping program describes looping as helping to increase student learning for the following reasons:
- Research shows it gives students 4 to 6 weeks of added instructional time. By having more time in the year, we are able to focus on the individual needs of each student.
- The students will develop strong peer relationships that will result in positive dynamics with fewer behavior problems.
- The teacher becomes familiar with each child's strengths and weaknesses. Many young children have anxiety over change. With looping, they know the teacher, their peers, and how the class is structured from the first day of school.
- By being together for 2 years, the students feel more comfortable and will take more risks in learning new things.
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