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What is Looping and how can it help your students?

What is looping and how can it help your students?

3 min read
  • Becoming evidence-informed

Have you heard about ‘looping’? It may be just the thing to help your students thrive. We know that teachers play an important role in a child’s education, but how can that relationship nurture better learning and inevitably higher achievement?

This blog gives you an understanding of what looping actually is and how as a teacher, building a relationship through familiarity can leave a lasting impression on your students. The Economics of Education Review published a journal article that discussed the benefits of looping in schools, in this blog we offer a more practical explanation.  

What is looping?

Looping is the idea that through familiarity, a teacher can build a relationship with a student to improve their academic achievement. It suggests that students who have the same teacher for a second year can academically benefit from a prior existing, well-established student-teacher relationship.

What does the research say?

Although the study highlights an improvement of only 2.4% in student grades, these findings should not be overlooked. In the UK, a 1% increase in grades could be the difference between a whole grade boundary, let alone nearly 3%. Students looking to gain entry into university or even pass important subjects like Maths and English could benefit massively from looping. 

Research also suggests that providing younger children (years 4-6) with specialised subject teachers could in fact reduce their academic achievement. It suggests that at the early stages of education, the consequences of an existing student-teacher relationship could have far more positive implications for their learning than specialisation.

Other benefits of looping

Additional benefits of looping are thought to include:

  • Improves lower quality/ less experienced teaching
  • Improves academic achievement and inclusion for minority students
  • Not all children in the class need to have the existing student-teacher relationship to benefit from looping (positive classroom environment).
  • It’s a low-cost intervention for schools
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Developing the student-teacher relationship

A student’s familiarity with their teacher improves academic achievement as this blog has already discussed, but how do teachers start to build that all important relationship? Here are some tips:

  1. Get to know the student, ask questions and identify their strengths and weaknesses to help them improve. This is something we have explored more in our blog, ‘The 5 Best Questions to Ask’ and in ‘Questions to Encourage a Growth Mindset’
  2. Develop trust – evidence suggests that how much a student trusts the person giving them the instruction has big implications for their ability to self-regulate and motivate themselves
  3. Find the balance between high levels of challenge and high levels of support. High challenge can be thought about in terms of having high standards and expectations, and if this is accompanied with high levels of support, it can help students flourish and develop resilience.

Research has shown that developing relationships with teachers is one of the major challenges and causes of stress for adolescents. If looping is not an option at your school, then this blogs on how to ‘help students settle in’ offers some other additional suggestions.

Final thoughts

Looping is a low-cost intervention that schools can employ without detrimental effect to timetabling and resources. It is seen to have a significant effect on overall academic achievement, especially in students that may normally struggle. This practice, although not too common in many schools, may provide a potential solution to better help students’ academic achievement.

To find other helpful tips for teachers, have a look at our series of studies that every teacher needs to know.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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