PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesICT in science
The use of ICT in science education
This page contains the findings of systematic reviews undertaken by review groups linked to the EPPI Centre

Creative and critical thinking skills
Small group work
Use of simulations

Creative and critical thinking skills

One review investigated the impact of the use of ICT in assessment of creative and critical thinking skills.[1] Medium-weight evidence was found that using a computer-based program for solving problems of balancing chemical equations enabled students to achieve a higher level of performance than solving equations on paper.

Small group work

A review of small-group discussion in science describes two studies which used computers as stimuli:[2]

  • One study used software to provide an opportunity for students to use their knowledge of biology to diagnose diseases with a view to examining how scaffolding* influenced student actions. All students could use the structured nature of the programme to call for evidence and generate hypotheses through discussion. However those who worked without adult guidance were more likely to spend time on insignificant detail. In contrast, the benefit of working solely with the software was that students generated their own hypotheses and followed up on their own problem-solving strategies.
  • An experimental group of students in a second study, on designing controlled experiments, was allocated by the computer roles such as summariser, explainer or listener. Built-in cues in the experimental software then facilitated discussion by prompting and thus facilitating summarising and explaining behaviour between partners. The control group had no procedural cues. As well as aiding discussion, the provision of cues improved scientific understanding. Students using the cued version of the computer program performed significantly better on the post-test than students using the non-cued version and they exhibited significantly more summarising and helping behaviours than non-cued students.

Use of simulations [3]

  •  Simulations fell into two main categories – simulation of specific experiments and simulations of a wider scientific situation, commonly known as virtual environments, which could include experimental simulations. Both types of simulation can improve students’ understanding compared to non-ICT/traditional teaching and learning activities.
  • Students’ use of ICT simulations helped them to improve their understanding of science ideas more effectively compared to the use of non-ICT teaching activities.
  • Students’ use of ICT simulations was more effective than using non-ICT teaching activities for improving basic science ideas including science understanding and the scientific approach.
  • However the improvement of higher levels of understanding (for example, the transfer of scientific knowledge from one situation to another and experimental design) can equally well be achieved when students use traditional (non-ICT) teaching approaches.
  • The gains in students’ learning when using ICT simulations were further enhanced when teachers actively scaffolded or guided students through the ICT simulations.


1. A systematic review of the impact on students and teachers of the use of ICT for assessment of creative and critical thinking skills (2003)

2. A systematic review of the use of small-group discussions in science teaching with students aged 11-18, and the effect of different stimuli (print materials, practical work, ICT, video/film) on students' understanding of evidence (2005)

3. The effect of ICT teaching activities in science lessons on students’ understanding of science ideas  (2006)

*'In scaffolding instruction a more knowledgeable other provides scaffolds or supports to facilitate the learner’s development. The scaffolds facilitate a student’s ability to build on prior knowledge and internalize new information. The activities provided in scaffolding instruction are just beyond the level of what the learner can do alone. The more capable other provides the scaffolds so that the learner can accomplish (with assistance) the tasks that he or she could otherwise not complete.'

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