ERIC Identifier: ED414098
Publication Date: 1997-12-00
Author: Burke, Daniel L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Champaign IL.
Looping: Adding Time, Strengthening Relationships. ERIC Digest.
"Looping" is an essentially simple concept: a teacher moves with his or her
students to the next grade level, rather than sending them to another teacher at
the end of the school year (Grant et al., 1996). Some loops are two consecutive
years with the same group of students, while others may be three or more years
with the same group. Despite enthusiastic practitioners, the experience of
European school systems, and favorable research, looping is still uncommon
enough in the United States to be considered innovative (Burke, 1996).
The available literature on looping is replete with its benefits. Students
change from one grade to the next with a minimum of anxiety (Grant &
Johnson, 1995). Looping provides children with additional time to build the
relationships on which much of children's learning depends (Checkley, 1995;
Haslinger, Kelly, & O'Lare, 1996; Lincoln, 1997; Shepro, 1995). Looping can
turn parents into supporters and promotes stronger bonding between parents and
teachers (National School Public Relations Association, 1995; Shepro, 1995).
Looping essentially adds an extra month of teaching/learning time during the
second year when the typical transitional period at the beginning of the year is
virtually unnecessary (Hanson, 1995; Burke, 1996).
In Project F.A.S.T. (Families
Are Students and Teachers), implemented in East Cleveland, Ohio, schools report
dramatic effects on both student academic achievement and parental involvement
as a result of the "extended family" aspect of looping (Hampton, Mumford, &
Bond, 1997). Jacoby (1994) chronicles how her early fears of looping were
quickly replaced with gratitude--she describes the time saved in skill
assessment, deeper relationships developed with both students and parents, and
the particular benefits afforded shy students. For teachers Mazzuchi and Brooks
(1992), looping's "gift of time" is its most beneficial aspect. Teachers are
able to provide appropriate activities over the longer two-year period to
students who need to master certain basic skills. Jubert (1996) considers
looping a parallel to a "close-knit family," and the additional month of
learning at the beginning of year two, one of the "greatest benefits."
Oxley (1994) recommends dividing large schools into smaller,
cross-disciplinary units, with students and teachers staying together for
several years. She cites two examples of schools that have successfully utilized
extended teacher-student relationships. Ziegler (1993) discusses
teacher-advisory groups that remain together for three school years in grades
seven through nine. She includes studies suggesting that such groups promote
positive attitudes within student, teacher, and parent populations. George and
Alexander (1993) argue that for middle school students, who generally need a
supportive interpersonal structure, a multi-year teacher-student assignment is
highly beneficial. A looping classroom with an effective summer component also
offers benefits similar to those of year-round schools with respect to momentum
and continuity of instruction (Grant et al., 1996; Lincoln, 1997).
Italian preschools, considered by some
the best in the world, utilize a model of three-year assignments of students to
teachers, and both parents and teachers as team members (Palestis, 1994). Some
German schools utilize multi-year teacher-student groupings for as long as six
years, and credit the extended relationship time with assisting students in
making the necessary brain connections learning requires (Burke, 1996; Oxley,
1994; Zahorik & Dichanz, 1994). Barnes (1980) describes Waldorf education,
which originated in Central Europe over 70 years ago and was brought to the
United States in 1928, as a similar concept. In Waldorf education settings, one
teacher and the same group of students remain together from grade one through
East Cleveland, Ohio, Schools and Cleveland State
University teamed to pilot Project F.A.S.T, which included multi-year
teacher-student assignments as a primary program component (Hampton, Mumford, & Bond, 1997). Students in the program exhibited substantially higher
reading and mathematics achievement scores on standardized tests than did
students in the traditional grade organization, even when both groups were
taught by the same teacher. In addition to student academic gains, F.A.S.T.
teachers reported an increased sense of ownership for student outcomes (both
positive and negative), and a heightened sense of efficacy as a result of their
increased decision-making autonomy for students. Parents reported feeling more
respected by teachers, having more confidence in their children's teachers and
administrators, and being more likely to seek the school's assistance with their
Studying a three-year teacher-student relationship, George, Spreul, and
Moorefield (1987) found that approximately 70% of the teachers reported that
teaching the same students for three years allowed them to use more positive
approaches to classroom management. Ninety-two percent of them said that they
knew more about their students, and 69% described their students as more willing
to participate voluntarily in class. Eighty-five percent of the teachers
reported that their students were better able to see themselves as important
members of a group, to feel pride in that group, and to feel pride in the school
as a whole. Eighty-four percent of the teachers reported more positive
relationships with parents, and 75% reported increased empathy with colleagues.
The reactions of students in this study were equally favorable and grew more
positive with each successive grade level. Ninety-nine percent of the parents in
this study, when asked, requested that their child have the same teacher as the
previous year (Burke, 1996).
Milburn (1981) studied two elementary schools of similar socioeconomic areas,
which were not experiencing major problems. One school used a traditional
grade-level structure, and the other used an extended teacher-student
relationship approach where students remained with the same teacher for more
than one year. This study found that students in the extended relationship
school were less likely to report disliking school or to find it "boring."
Additionally, the young students in the extended relationship school
outperformed their counterparts in the traditional school on basic skills tests.
The practice of looping offers the potential for
both academic and social benefits for students. Academically, the literature
includes (a) reports of improved student achievement; (b) increased time-on-task
through the "extra month" of school during year two of a loop, and the potential
for summer learning at the end of year one with the assignment of high interest
reading and project activities; (c) more time for slower students to learn basic
skills without the need for retention; and (d) more opportunities for bonding
between teachers and students, and teachers and parents. The potential social
benefits for students include (a) diminished apprehension about a new school
year; (b) more time to establish positive peer relationships; (c) increased
support for students who require school as a social safety net; (d) an enhanced
sense of school and group as a "community"; and (e) increased opportunities for
shy students to develop self-confidence. The only potential disadvantage of
looping regularly mentioned is an inappropriate match, or personality conflict,
between teacher and student--a situation that can occur in a traditional
classroom as well. Such actual problems are rare (Burke, 1996) and can usually
be solved by transferring those students to another teacher (Grant & Johnson, 1995).
The social interactions among adults and students are not simply a means to
some other end; rather "they are education itself" (Lee et al., 1993). The
essence of looping is the promotion of strong, extended, meaningful, positive
interpersonal relationships between teachers and students that foster increased
student motivation and, in turn, stimulate improved learning outcomes for
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Burke, D. L. (1996). Multi-year teacher/student relationships are a
long-overdue arrangement. PHI DELTA KAPPAN, 77(5), 360-361. EJ 516 053.
Checkley, K. (1995). Multiyear education: Reaping the benefits of "looping."
ASCD EDUCATION UPDATE, 37(8), 1,3,6.
George, P., Spreul, M., & Moorefield J. (1987). LONG-TERM TEACHER-STUDENT
RELATIONSHIPS: A MIDDLE SCHOOL CASE STUDY. Columbus, OH: National Middle School
George, P., & Alexander, W. (1993). Grouping students in the middle
school. In THE EXEMPLARY MIDDLE SCHOOL (2nd ed., pp. 299-330). Orlando, FL:
Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
Grant, J., & Johnson, B. (1995). Looping, the two grade cycle: A good
starting place. In A COMMON SENSE GUIDE TO MULTIAGE PRACTICES, PRIMARY LEVEL
(pp. 33-36). Columbus, OH: Teacher's Publishing Group.
Grant, J., Johnson, B., Richardson, I., & Fredenburg, A.(Ed.). (1996).
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Hampton, F., Mumford, D., & Bond, L. (1997, March). ENHANCING URBAN
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