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I'd like to share my research on how students write essay conclusions. Data was taken from an admission essay service. I am a K-12 educator in New York and my students were the participants of the experiment. This was an interesting area since students’ perceptions were that this was one of their weakest areas. However, 30% of students wrote a good conclusion, 60% an acceptable one and only 10% couldn't finish the task properly. This data suggests that students are reasonably competent at conclusions and are actually better at them than they are at planning (60% good/acceptable) or introductions (60% good/acceptable) and this means that they can be writing an essay for my university. 60% of students echoed the opening and 90% referred to the essay question in their conclusions. This indicates that students understand the point of a conclusion and do use it correctly as a sort of end-point for their ideas in relation to the essay question. However, only 50% had a clear purpose in terms of what overall answer they had come to in their conclusions. The best conclusions used language that was positive and assertive - "it seems clear” and “it is key”, intermingled with the student’s opinions/ideas. The least successful conclusions were almost a paraphrasing of the question with a very tentative attempt to give an answer. What the data also showed was that “higher-level skills” of concluding, with other questions raised by the text or closing the essay with deliberate ambiguity, were less widely employed. Here the figure dropped to 20% for the first and 0% for the second of these categories. Key differences between the most and least able writers in the sample There were several areas where the difference between the two students in the sample who regularly achieved the highest grades and the two students who achieved the lowest were noteworthy. In terms of teaching, this has implications for quite strongly differentiated material (when focusing on improving writing as opposed to the understanding of a Literary text). The data gathered during my research led me to plan several essay-writing sessions for the class. They were relatively short as I was still constrained by the need to get through the syllabus. Moreover, I felt that short, regular sessions on essay-writing would probably be the most palatable means of teaching what could be a very dry topic. Having shared the findings of my analysis of their work with my class, I decided to begin by using a whole-class approach. I explained that lack of planning in their essays sometimes led to a sort of “patchwork” of ideas which lacked cohesion. This was generally a bright group, so I explained some of the ideas behind planning. The class was receptive to one of Hayes and Flower’s ideas, that one way of reducing cognitive strain is to depend on “procedures that are so routine” that they become almost automatic. Several students also studied psychology and were particularly comfortable with this type of explanation.

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