Looping is the process in which a group of elementary level students remains with the same teacher for several years. An Australian educator, Rudolf Steiner, instituted the practice in the 20th century, maintaining that a teacher who remains with the same class “is better able to assess each individual’s development, needs, and learning style—and the children, feeling secure in this long-term relationship, are more comfortable in their learning environment.” Disadvantages include the possibility of “persistent negative relationships and  . . .  less exposure to different teaching/learning methods.”

In the U.S. the practice of looping centers on the preschool and elementary levels. In early childhood, “keeping a group of children with the same teacher for more than a year has the potential to provide that consistency that is critical for attachment.”  Studies at the elementary level indicate that looping results in an increase in student attendance and a decrease in discipline problems. “When teachers and students know they will be gathering again the next school year, many looping teachers turn the customary summer break into instructional time by providing summer assignments and learning activities.” Teachers can gain four to six weeks of instructional time because they spend less time assessing student achievement or developing classroom procedures. Some middle schools have implemented looping as a way to help students transition from the elementary environment. 

The majority of  the positive effects of looping center on student-teacher relationships, as scant data exist regarding the academic benefits. If caring is the key to motivating students, sustaining strong relationships can have long-term effects. Regardless of the practice: looping or the one year model, for learning to occur, a positive relationship between teacher and student is the important first step.  Caring is the key to successful learning. Leadership expert John Maxwell stated: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That adage certainly applies to education. 

Laura Maniglia