The Knowledge

The practice where consistency brings little benefit

A lot is made of keeping students with the same teacher year on year, but the data doesn’t bear out the benefits

A lot is made of keeping students with the same teacher year on year, but the data doesn’t bear out the benefits

10 Feb 2024, 5:00

In the United States, quite a lot of interest has been shown in so-called “looping” – keeping the same teacher with the same set of pupils for more than one academic year. Such an approach may – in theory – allow better pupil-staff and pupil-pupil relationships to be formed, help teachers and pupils adjust to each other’s styles, and make classroom rules and expectations surrounding behaviour clear from the get-go.

Given these possible benefits, to what extent should schools attempt to keep the same teacher with the same pupils over time?

In a new academic paper, Loic Menzies and I look at some new international evidence on this matter.

The TALIS video study

Along with seven other countries, England participated in the 2018 TALIS video study. In total, the participants consisted of more than 500 mathematics teachers and 15,000 of their pupils, who were on average around 15 years old.

As part of this study, pupils were asked whether they were currently taught by the same teacher that taught them the previous academic year. This allowed us to look at whether the classroom climate and pupil outcomes differed across those who kept the same teacher versus those who changed. In our analysis, “looped” classes are defined as those where at least 75 per cent of pupils were taught by the same mathematics teacher for at least two consecutive years.

The table below illustrates how the prevalence of looping compares across the eight countries in our sample. As the data in most were not nationally representative, these figures should be taken with a pinch of salt. And as the data were only collected from secondary schools, we also do not know about the prevalence of looping within primary school settings.

However, it does suggest that looping in England is comparatively rare. Less than one in five of the classes in England were “looped” (16 per cent). This it notably lower than in Chile (50 per cent), Japan (60 per cent) and Shanghai (80 per cent).

Does it make a difference?

The key question, of course, is whether looping makes much of a difference.

Despite the theoretical benefits, our analysis suggests that there is actually little to be gained from looping. While absence rates may be marginally lower, there is no evidence of any improvement in test scores, and possibly even some small declines in students’ self-confidence.

Evidence surrounding classroom climate is also somewhat inconclusive. Students and teachers did not consistently report there to be better behaviour or fewer disruptions in looped classrooms. Nor did they report there to be better relationships between pupils (or between pupils and staff).

We have also gone back and looked again at the literature from other countries, with much of this coming from the United States. Upon further inspection, this evidence also suggested that any positive benefits associated with looping are likely to be very small. The magnitude of the positive effects reported by others – which has focused on test scores and levels of pupil absence – is in fact marginal, at best.

Given these results, what would our advice then be to schools?

Sometimes, researchers can be guilty of providing too much advice, when the reality is the likely impact is minimal. Looping probably falls into this category.

From what we can see, with regards to secondaries at least, the evidence does not seem strong enough to justify schools going out of their way to enact looping as a school policy. Yet neither should they bother to actively avoid it either.

Rather, looping should be encouraged to happen when other aspects of timetabling make it the most pragmatic choice, or when localised professional judgement indicates that it is an appropriate course of action.

Latest education roles from

LECTURER – A LEVEL CHEMISTRY

LECTURER – A LEVEL CHEMISTRY

East Sussex College

Digital Pedagogy Team Leader

Digital Pedagogy Team Leader

Barnsley College

Learning Support Assistant

Learning Support Assistant

The Chalk Hills Academy - Part of the Shared Learning Trust

GCSE Maths Teacher (Mat cover)

GCSE Maths Teacher (Mat cover)

Barnsley College

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

Haberdashers’ Academies Trust South

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Ark Greenwich Free School

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspire creativity in your classroom. Sky Arts’ Access All Arts week is back!

Now in its third year, Access All Arts week is a nationwide celebration of creativity for primary schools (17-21...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Unleash the Power of Sport in your setting this summer! National School Sports Week is back!

Unleash the Power of Sport this summer with National School Sports Week powered by Monster Kickabout! From 17-23 June,...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

The Knowledge

Covid delays release of long-awaited phonics study

Important £1m trial study now due in 2023

John Dickens

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *