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Valid and Reliable Conclusions
Conclusions are the end of the story. In order to draw a conclusion the entire story must have a valid and reliable through-line from the beginning of the objectives, through the assessment model one chooses to use, through the analysis and to one’s findings. Conclusions are the story of the findings that grew out of the story. A story always starts with objectives.
One should start with the objectives for giving the assessment in the first place. As mentioned before, the more descriptive one’s objective, the more likely an interesting story of the findings will be written. If the objective was to find out if audience members like a show, then the conclusion will be limited to if they did or did not like the show. If the objective is to find out why they liked it, then the conclusions will draw from a much richer source of questioning, and the story that one can tell will be more interesting.
Creating meaningful conclusions is just one reason why one should take great care in choosing the proper assessment model. If the objective was to know how students developed their thinking about designing a set, a portfolio assessment was an excellent choice for an assessment model. If the objective was to understand if the student could act, then using a performance task was a good choice for an assessment model. The choice of assessment models helps the validity and reliability of the conclusions by aligning the data collection with the objectives. The objectives determine the assessment models and these in turn determine the outcomes.
Compare Objectives with Outcomes
Although many will think the outcomes of the work are amazing, and came out of nowhere, the conclusions are logically connected to the objectives one started with. Conclusions are drawn by comparing the objective set for the work with the resulting outcome of the assessment. Comparing the objectives with the outcomes helps to strengthen the findings that grew out of the work. A comparison analysis will produce outcomes, a category building analysis will produce findings and results will produce conclusions.
Telling a Story
Although there is a clear logic to connecting objectives with outcomes, the practical way one accomplishes this is to tell a story of one’s work to the reader. The story has to help the reader connect the dots, lead the reader through the parts labeled objectives, analysis and outcomes and confirm with the reader why the conclusions make sense.