Teachers, administrators, and school systems across the country struggle with finding ways to improve achievement that are simple and proven. Within the last ten years, a number of schools have turned to the practice of looping, also known as multiyear teaching. In a looping classroom arrangement, elementary school teachers instruct the same group of children for two years and alternate between teaching two different grade levels. Common in many European countries, and pioneered by Austrian educator Rudolf Steiner, many believe looping strengthens relationships, creates a more stable environment, and improves learning.
Unlike some other new approaches to teaching, looping has been proven beneficial by a number of educational researchers and has been praised by teachers, students, and parents alike. In fact, a recent study exploring the effects of looping found that looping students outperformed non-looping students in all areas of comparison and that 97 percent of looping students preferred the looping environment.
What are some of the benefits of looping?
- Stronger relationships. With two years to develop, the bonds between peers, teachers and parents are stronger and more meaningful. Students become more comfortable opening up to their instructors and classmates, teachers learn how to best instruct individual students, and parents become more knowledgeable of their children’s learning environment.
- A more stable environment. Especially for shy students, students with behavioral issues, and students with troubles at home, a looping classroom environment offers a familiar classroom environment and a trusting mentor. Looping decreases confusion, anxiety, and insecurity – and therefore decreases classroom interruptions and acting out.
- More time for learning. Studies have show that looping gives teachers a full month of extra instruction time over each two-year period – a month that other classroom spend on transitions, getting to know new students, and establishing the routines of the new classroom.
- An opportunity to understand individual student learning styles. A two-year window allows teachers to better understand individual student strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. In many cases, teachers can uncover student interests, gifts, and learning disabilities – and give each child the support they need. This information can be shared with parents and can aid students throughout their education.
- A chance to develop self-confidence. Surrounded by familiar students and a familiar teacher, students are given the unique opportunity to build their self-confidence, test their limits, and grow in a safe and supportive environment.
- A cost-effective solution. Unlike other education trends, looping does not require changes to the school budget or extra training. It simply requires teachers with the ability to teach at two different grade levels.
There are, of course, possible downsides to looping. Potential bad pairings between teachers and students (or students and students) could lead to long-term conflicts, while the presence of a poor instructor in a looping environment could be detrimental to entire groups of students. In addition, children in looping classrooms are not exposed to as large a number of teaching styles or students. However, when done appropriately, the benefits may greatly outweigh the disadvantages, especially if looping is limited to two years increments. The results can be seen through standardized testing as well as through student and teacher exit interviews: looping gives teachers more time to teach and students the opportunity to build self-confidence and lasting relationships.