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Is technology always helpful?: A critical review of the impact on learning outcomes of education technology in supporting formative assessment in schools

See, Beng Huat and Gorard, Stephen and Lu, Binwei and Dong, Lan and Siddiqui, Nadia (2021) 'Is technology always helpful?: A critical review of the impact on learning outcomes of education technology in supporting formative assessment in schools.', Research papers in education. .


While education technology has been widely used in classrooms, and considerable investments have been made to support its use in the UK, the evidence base for many such rapidly changing technologies is weak, and their efficacy is unclear. The aim of this paper is to systematically review and synthesise empirical research on the use of technology in formative assessment, to identify approaches that are effective in improving pupils’ learning outcomes. The review involved a search of 11 major databases, and included 55 eligible studies. The results suggest promising evidence that digitally delivered formative assessment could facilitate the learning of maths and reading for young children, but there is no good evidence that it is effective for other subjects, or for older children, or that it is any more effective than formative assessment without technology. The review found no good evidence that learner response systems work in enhancing children’s academic attainment, and there is no evidence supporting the effectiveness of such technologies that embed gaming features. Much research in this area is of poor quality. More rigorous studies using causal designs are thus urgently needed. Meantime, there should be no rush to use technology on the basis of improving attainment.

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Publisher statement:© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date accepted:21 March 2021
Date deposited:31 March 2021
Date of first online publication:29 March 2021
Date first made open access:20 August 2021

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