The challenges of researching digital technology use: examples from an assessment context


  • Martin Johnson Cambridge Assessment


This paper presents a critical overview of research studies that have considered how people interact with and through new digital technology for assessment purposes. These studies involved a variety of people interacting with digital technology in different parts of the assessment system (from examination question setters writing questions, to young students answering test questions, to examiners marking extended essays), and were all underpinned by a cognitivist perspective. This perspective anticipates that a shift in mode (i.e. a move from interaction in a non-digital to a digital environment) influences the ways that individual’s think and, in turn, behave.


Research has a central role in ensuring that a valid conceptualisation of the intended technology user is maintained throughout the development process. As a consequence, this paper identifies three principal challenges that need to be considered when research is used to support technological development, with these challenges being particularly apposite in contexts where quick technological development is incentivised.