This chapter will introduce the educational process of looping, as well as evaluate the benefits that looping can have on students. It will also address the individual needs of at-risk children, and explain how looping effects these children.
Looping, which is also known as multiyear teaching or multiyear placement, occurs when teachers are promoted with their students to the next grade level, staying with the same group of children for two or three years.
For example, in a looping situation, the teacher would teach a class of first grade students and then remain with those students another year as their second grade teacher. At the end of the second grade, the same teacher would return to first grade to teach a new group of students. This practice takes advantage of additional time together for teacher and students.
Looping is especially designed for the diverse populations school districts are faced with today, especially at-risk students (Forsten, 1997). These include children who are homeless, have families in crisis, have been or are being emotionally or physically abused, are learning disabled and require a variety of special services, have untreated health problems, or are under emotional stress.
Schools have traditionally been places of support and nurturing, and the looping process can strengthen this tradition by offering continuity for children with special needs.
Many teachers praise the benefits of looping; saying that they feel that looping helps establish a greater bond between teachers and students (p. 57). Therefore, less time is spent with the initial teaching stage of getting to know students, and more time is spent on the actual teaching itself.
With looping, teachers can introduce curriculum topics immediately at the start of the school year, rather than spending a lot of time establishing classroom routines and expectations. This means that students have more time to learn and have the advantage of a richer curriculum.
Outside of an enhanced curriculum, looping benefits teachers and students by presenting them with a greater opportunity to get to know each other better. After one year, a teacher usually has at least a basic knowledge of an individual student's skills and strengths. After two or more years, there is a greater chance of developing a strong bond with the students.
These strong relationships are especially important for at-risk students, as it is crucial that a teacher knows and understands the additional needs of these students. By being with a teacher for two years, the students tend to feel more comfortable and are more likely to take risks and open up.
While looping helps teachers meet the individual needs of students, it also gives them more time to consider the best interests of the children. Teachers can take the time to observe their students, postponing high-stakes decisions, such as special education referrals or social and economic recommendations, until they are absolutely sure they have made the right decisions.
B. Statement of the Research Problem
In today's society, teachers are expected to socialize children as well as to educate them (Clune, 1995) Many parents choose public schools for socialization reasons, rather than academic reasons, over private or home school. Over the past few decades, schools have been pressured to increase their socialization guidelines, and are encouraged to implement programs that benefit at-risk children.
Recent research has identified a variety of risk factors that contribute to the development of antisocial behavior and educational problems, in addition to protective factors that help children develop the necessary skills and behaviors to overcome risk. Most antisocial behavior develops from a combination of risk factors associated with individuals, families, schools, and communities (Thornberry, 1994).
In addition, research shows that antisocial behavior increases over the course of childhood, often beginning in the preschool and elementary years and reaching its peak in late adolescence. Studies show that early intervention works wonders to stop its progress. However, if antisocial patterns are firmly established, they become harder to change and can persist into adulthood (p. 11).
General Risk Factors
There are many general factors put all children at risk for antisocial behavior and educational problems. While the presence of multiple factors increases risk, the elimination of factors reduces risk. There are three types of general risk factors that must be addressed (Brooks, 1994, p. 550):
Individual risk factors. Various inborn traits and characteristics related to personality, temperament, and cognitive ability are risk factors for delinquent behavior. While they do not necessarily lead to misbehavior or crime, they make children more susceptible to other risks in the environment.
Family/community/societal risk factors. Family characteristics, as well as community and societal factors, can increase risk for antisocial behavior.
School-related risk factors. Various school factors can be linked to delinquent behavior.
Individual risk factors include impulsivity; the inability to understand consequences; the inability to delay gratification; the inability to self-regulate emotions; the excessive need for stimulation and excitement; low harm avoidance; low frustration tolerance; central nervous system dysfunction; aggressive behavior; low general aptitude; increased exposure to violence and abuse; alienation; rebelliousness; association with deviant peers; deviant behavior; peer rejection; alcohol and drug abuse; and aggressive or problem behavior (Thornberry, Hawkins, 1995).
Family/community/societal risk factors include economic deprivation and unemployment; deviant behavior of parents; poor parental supervision; poor parental education; family conflict; disruption in care giving; out-of-home placement; poor relationship between child and family; low community attachment and community disorganization; parental alcoholism or drug abuse; social alienation of the community; availability of drugs and guns; high community turnover; and exposure to violence. (Thornberry, Hawkins, p. 17).
School-based risk factors include academic failure; poor test scores; lack of commitment to school; lack of belief in the validity of rules; early aggressive behavior; lack of relationships with teachers; lack of aspirations and goals; peer rejection and social alienation; low morale; academic disorganization; poor monitoring and management of students; and poor adaptation to school. (Thornberry, Hawkins).
Resiliency: Overcoming Risk
Studies show that the majority of children succeed in life despite exposure to multiple risks. Children who are able to thrive despite risks are labeled as resilient (Brooks, p. 553) Researchers have identified looping as a teaching method that can help promote resilience and prevent negative outcomes.
Protective factors, which are located within individuals, families, communities, and schools, act against risk factors. Because effects of protective factors are cumulative - the more factors present, the greater their influence (Thornberry).
Schools that foster high self-esteem and promote social and scholastic success, increasing protective factors, reduce the likelihood of emotional and behavioral disturbance. Looping enables teachers to establish high expectations for all students, including at-risk children, because they can better design classroom instruction to accommodate individual ability levels, and increase actual learning time (Hawkins).
C. Review of the Literature
Looping, as a design alternative to the traditional one-year pairing of a teacher with a group of students, is a method of teaching that allows a teacher to remain with the same class for a period of two or more years (Forsten, Grant, Johnson, & Richardson, 1997). It is a growing movement in the United States, inspired by a number of initiatives that have proposed establishing long-term relationships between teachers and students.
Since there have been few formal studies completed regarding looping, there is little empirical evidence to support looping. However, the result of a study by Milburn at the University of British Columbia, shows that looping can have a positive effect (Milburn, 1981). In a controlled study of the combined effects of multi-age classes and persistence in group, Milburn tracked the progress of children in similar urban schools during a five-year period.
Milburn's findings showed little difference in achievement level of skills yet showed a significant difference in attitude toward school. He attributed these positive differences in attitude to the comfortable atmosphere marked by prolonged student-student, teacher-parent and student-teacher relationships.
Milburn's findings (1981) supported the potential for adjustments in the curriculum the second year a teacher instructed a group. Teachers that worked with the same group of students for at least two years would be in a better position to evaluate students' progress and prevent unnecessary repetition of instruction than the teacher who had no previous contact with the students.
Looping essentially obligates a group of students and their teacher to remain together for more than one year. Continuity of the group rather than class size is of greatest importance (Forsten et al., 1997; Grant et al., 1996; Wynn & Walberg, 1994). Looping compels teachers to move with students as they are promoted to the next grade.
The first year in looping is much like that of the traditional one-year classroom. Teachers say that most of the benefits of looping come in the second year. During the second year, the instructional time in the classroom is used differently than in a one-year classroom. At the end of the first year of looping, a teacher can spend more time on…