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A systematic review of the impact on students and teachers of the use of ICT for assessment of creative and critical thinking skills

What do we want to know?

New technologies have created both the need for education to provide students with 'higher level thinking skills', particularly the aspects of creative and critical thinking, and the opportunity to teach and assess those skills. The reported neglect of creative and critical thinking in assessment is a cause for concern, since it leads to neglect in learning skills that are an essential preparation for life in a rapidly changing society, and for lifelong learning.

The review aims to describe the impact on students and teachers of the use of ICT (information and communication technologies) for assessing, both formatively and summatively, students' creative and critical thinking skills.

Who wants to know?

Teachers and policy-makers.

What did we find?  

High-weight findings were:

  • Computer-based concept-mapping with automated scoring can be used for summative assessment of critical and creative thinking about complex relationships.
  • The use of ICT can help teachers by storing and recording information about how students are developing understanding of new material; and by taking over some of the role of assessing and providing feedback to students so that teachers can focus on other aspects of supporting learning.
  • Feedback from the computer during the use of test material improves student performance in later use of the same test material.

What are the implications?


  • ICT covers a range of diverse hardware and software; it is important not to treat it as a single entity.
  • It is important for the use of ICT in education to start from consideration of how it can be integrated into learning, teaching and assessment. 
  • Familiarity with ICT and professional development to create and develop teachers' own knowledge and understanding of it is necessary for effective ICT use in the classroom. 
  • Teachers need to be provided with ways of evaluating software.
  • Knowing how to use ICT should go hand in hand with understanding how to bring about higher level thinking.


  • Learners need to be made aware of creative and critical thinking as explicit learning objectives so that they can use the feedback provided by ICT for formative self-assessment.  They should also be aware of the role of ICT in enabling reflection on learning processes.
  • Teachers should exploit the potential of ICT to provide motivation for learning, and allow learners more control of their learning.
  • Teachers need to be aware of the roles that ICT can play in learning and assessment.

How did we get these results?

Twelve studies were synthesised; these were written in English and related to students aged 4 to 18 in schools.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Harlen W, Deakin Crick R (2003) A systematic review of the impact on students and teachers of the use of ICT for assessment of creative and critical thinking skills. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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