Research Topic

Relevance and Value of Using an International Classification of Functioning (ICF) Informed Approach to Educational Assessment of Students with SEN/ Disabilities

About this Research Topic

The ICF was introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2001, sitting alongside the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The ICF understands functioning and disability as the result of complex interactions between biological, psychological, and social factors, so providing a common language to study the dynamics of these factors.

The rationale for using the ICF has included the following: i. ICD diagnosis can mask the functional and situation characteristics of different children, ii. with disorder classifications, a difference in diagnostic category could mask functional commonalities that might have intervention implications, and iii. there is a disconnection between diagnostic assessment and interventions needed for individual children with different functional and contextual profiles. These points relate to the traditional weakness of diagnostic assessment for school learning recommendations.

Though some studies show how assessment instruments can be linked to ICF dimensions and how the ICF framework can be used for designing dependable measures, there are continuing measurement issues. There has been relatively little use of the ICF-CY (child-youth version) in educational settings and for eligibility decisions about scarce education provision, despite its use in Portugal and parts of Italy and Switzerland. Research shows the usefulness of the ICF in education decision-making, but analyses show fidelity issues in using the ICF in individual educational planning. The implementation of the Swiss educational expansion of the ICF-CY illustrates the importance of understanding the different aspects of the ICF and how it can be adapted for different purposes. It also indicates how the ICF’s educational use requires conceptual developments that relate to educational ideas of well-being grounded in national ideas about curriculum and learning.

In this Research Topic, we call for contributors to write papers that address specifically these and related themes:

1. Examines the conceptual and procedural design of the ICF (Child-Youth version) and evolving versions of the ICF in terms of:

a. The kinds of adaptations that might be required for educational rather than generic use, which could be about:


i. Changes that take account of a more strengths based approach to assessment


ii. Take account of local and national curriculum designs that might influence how activity and participation are adapted in the current ICF model


iii. Take account of the local and national organization of schooling and teaching that might affect how environmental factors in the current ICF are defined.


iv. How capacity and performance are defined in the current ICF model


v. Inter-professional working relationships in using an ICF informed assessment approach


vi. Other aspects


b. Rationale for adaptations



2. Links the use of ICF to educational assessment for all; to inclusive assessment and the tensions that need to be addressed in making assessment inclusive

3. Links the use of ICF to the wave / tier model and Response to Instruction (RTI) principles and practices.

4. Evaluates the specific methods to be used for assessing the domains of the ICF.

5. Presents international perspectives while being grounded in the education assessment arrangements in specific countries and regions.


Keywords: ICF, SEN, disability, educational assessment, inter-professional collaboration


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The ICF was introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2001, sitting alongside the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The ICF understands functioning and disability as the result of complex interactions between biological, psychological, and social factors, so providing a common language to study the dynamics of these factors.

The rationale for using the ICF has included the following: i. ICD diagnosis can mask the functional and situation characteristics of different children, ii. with disorder classifications, a difference in diagnostic category could mask functional commonalities that might have intervention implications, and iii. there is a disconnection between diagnostic assessment and interventions needed for individual children with different functional and contextual profiles. These points relate to the traditional weakness of diagnostic assessment for school learning recommendations.

Though some studies show how assessment instruments can be linked to ICF dimensions and how the ICF framework can be used for designing dependable measures, there are continuing measurement issues. There has been relatively little use of the ICF-CY (child-youth version) in educational settings and for eligibility decisions about scarce education provision, despite its use in Portugal and parts of Italy and Switzerland. Research shows the usefulness of the ICF in education decision-making, but analyses show fidelity issues in using the ICF in individual educational planning. The implementation of the Swiss educational expansion of the ICF-CY illustrates the importance of understanding the different aspects of the ICF and how it can be adapted for different purposes. It also indicates how the ICF’s educational use requires conceptual developments that relate to educational ideas of well-being grounded in national ideas about curriculum and learning.

In this Research Topic, we call for contributors to write papers that address specifically these and related themes:

1. Examines the conceptual and procedural design of the ICF (Child-Youth version) and evolving versions of the ICF in terms of:

a. The kinds of adaptations that might be required for educational rather than generic use, which could be about:


i. Changes that take account of a more strengths based approach to assessment


ii. Take account of local and national curriculum designs that might influence how activity and participation are adapted in the current ICF model


iii. Take account of the local and national organization of schooling and teaching that might affect how environmental factors in the current ICF are defined.


iv. How capacity and performance are defined in the current ICF model


v. Inter-professional working relationships in using an ICF informed assessment approach


vi. Other aspects


b. Rationale for adaptations



2. Links the use of ICF to educational assessment for all; to inclusive assessment and the tensions that need to be addressed in making assessment inclusive

3. Links the use of ICF to the wave / tier model and Response to Instruction (RTI) principles and practices.

4. Evaluates the specific methods to be used for assessing the domains of the ICF.

5. Presents international perspectives while being grounded in the education assessment arrangements in specific countries and regions.


Keywords: ICF, SEN, disability, educational assessment, inter-professional collaboration


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 December 2017 Manuscript
12 January 2018 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 December 2017 Manuscript
12 January 2018 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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