Updated: Sep 3, 2022
The question of what to put in a conclusion has long bothered my students. To answer the question “what do I put in my conclusion miss”? I like to answer with a combination of a) their own discovery of what good supported judgement looks like and b) some instruction and guidance from me.
I like to think of it as learning to surf. A certain amount of it you can do on the sand with an instructor, but eventually, you are going to need to get on a board and have a go for yourself. Feel the waves, understand tides, and sense when conditions are just right. It is the same with learning to write a good conclusion.
Avoid lessons like “how to write the perfect conclusion” because a bold scrappy one that is alive with evaluative statements and bang-on application is better than a textbook one.
I chose surfing as an analogy but I could have chosen cooking, swimming or even playing snooker. Just activities where the learner needs to do some of this for themselves or they will never improve. So here is some guidance to help your students achieve “Pura Vida” ( a Costa Rican term, to mean an attitude, emotion and contentment all in one) Source: https://www.rapturecamps.com/blog/speak-like-a-surfer/
1) Answer the question. e.g. Assess the factors that might affect the success of a global business such as XXXXX when entering a new market such as China. So in this example, students can look for the most important reason which will impact the success of XXXX. That should form the framework of their conclusion. 99% of the time they can argue either way or for any factor. Occasionally there will be a set answer, but mostly a good argument with a bold conclusion will be fine.
2) What does the answer depend on? E.g. ability to extend the lifecycle. I like to suggest the use of PESTLE factors for this, which means bumping that unit forwards so that kids can use it in all their essays. E.g. economic factors such as growth in the Chinese economy or social factors such as the level of demand due to trends
3) What evidence is there in the case study to support it? Use a short quote to back up your ideas. When they first read the case study, they should have already read the question and be looking for their supporting quotes. Teach reading case studies with a highlighter in hand. Reading the question before the case study can save students from having to read it twice, and can be a game changer for good students who tend to run out of time in exams.
4) Students should not be afraid to take a responsible risk. This means sticking their neck out, acting on a hunch, using their wits and other phrases that mean having a go and seeing what happens. Occasionally, don’t ask students for their essays, ask for their essay plans, this frees them up to take more risks.
5) Encourage students to be bold, a good evaluation is bold in ideas and is not afraid to take the unpopular viewpoint. Bold is more exciting and interesting to read.
6) Bring a new point to the party. Their argument in the main body of the essay was sound, but that was only the main course, now in the conclusion, they should bring in the pudding. Train them to not accept sprouts in cheese sauce for dessert. They should not repeat their main argument in the conclusion.
7) Short-term, long-term. Use this with caution, do use it if it helps to get the creativity going, but don’t use it if the kids are sitting with their heads in their hands saying “I just can’t think of a long-term impact”. Sometimes it can be a bit prescriptive and does not allow scope for kids to use their own ideas and get things wrong.
8) Use MOPS on 20 markers (Edexcel A Level only). This is why I am writing this blog now because after this half term is the perfect time to set 20-mark essays (or essay plans) with MOPS as the star of the show. Start training students early on, and they should have more bold confidence with their 20-mark conclusions. (Lots of examples of these on the 2019 past papers on the exam board websites).
9) Start with "In conclusion, it's clear to see from extract A that...." this prevents students from putting themselves in the conclusion. Early on I ban the use of "I think that", worse "I feel" and most hated of all; "I believe". It also helps to signal to the examiner that, while there may be superb evaluative statements throughout, this is where the really good surf is...
Let’s hope that your students don’t “wipe out” and that their conclusions are bolder, more experimental and totally “off the hook”. (Sorry)