About ICCS » Framework and Design

Study Framework and Design


Research Questions

The key research questions for ICCS 2016 concern students’ civic knowledge, their dispositions to engage and their attitudes related to civic and citizenship issues as well as contexts in this learning area.  Each of the following general research question relates to a subset of specific research questions to be addressed in ICCS 2016:

  • How is civic and citizenship education implemented in participating countries? Did it change between 2009 and 2016?
  • What is extent and variation of students’ civic knowledge within and across participating countries?
  • What is the extent of students’ engagement in different spheres of society and which factors within or across countries are related to it?
  • What beliefs do students in participating countries hold regarding important civic issues in modern society and what are the factors influencing their variation?
  • How is the school context in participating countries organized with regard to civic and citizenship education and what is its association with students’ learning outcomes?


The assessment framework established in 2009 was used as a starting point for further refinement and evolution. Following the review of proposals by country delegates, experts and invited project advisors, the civics and citizenship framework for 2016 has been revised. The approach taken was one that maintained strong links with ICCS 2009 in order to ensure comparability across cycles. Furthermore, the aim was to modify the assessment so that it includes aspects related to current contexts, developments and policy interests. The ICCS 2016 framework is now organized along the following types of dimensions:

  • Four content dimensions
  • Two affective-behavioral dimensions (four in ICCS 2009 framework)
  • Two cognitive dimensions

The four content domains are civic society and systems, civic principles, civic participation, and civic identities. Each of these content domains includes a set of sub-domains incorporating elements referred to as aspects and key concepts. The two affective-behavioral domains that will be used to organize student perceptions, judgments, and behaviors relevant to civics and citizenship are attitudes and engagement. The two cognitive processes are knowing and reasoning and applying.

Compared to framework for ICCS 2009, the revised version for ICCS 2016 includes more aspects related to the following three areas:

  • Environmental sustainability in civics and citizenship: In many societies, the potential impact of human activity on the environment (in particular on the global climate) and environmental sustainability have become key issues in debates about their future political, social and economic development which is reflected in many international declarations.
  • Social interactions at school: Reviews of civic and citizenship education curricula across countries provide evidence that at the outset of the 21st century a large number of countries place emphasis on non-formal aspects of civic learning through participation and engagement or social interaction at schools. Therefore, it was deemed important for ICCS 2016 to include more aspects related to social interaction at school in the survey instruments, in particular those related to the relationships within the school community, including those related to conflict and the use of violence (bullying).
  • The use of new social media for civic engagement: In recent years the importance of new social media has risen exponentially and the use of this emerging media type has been found to have a profound effect on civic engagement among young people. Given the further increases in engagement with social media and its relevance for communication on social and political issues since the previous ICCS survey, it was seen as important that the use of new social media for civic engagement would be explored in greater detail in ICCS 2016.


The ICCS assessment framework addresses the different contexts in which civic learning takes place. Civic and citizenship outcomes are assumed to be influenced by students’ wider communities, schools and classrooms, home environments, and individual characteristics. The contextual framework also distinguishes between contextual variables that are antecedents and those who are related to learning processes. Along these lines and consistent with the set of instruments established and informants targeted as part of the 2009 design, the following core instruments will be administered in ICCS 2016 main study: 

  • Student instruments
    • International cognitive test (45 minutes)
    • International student questionnaire (40 minutes)
  • Teacher questionnaire (up to 30 minutes)
  • School questionnaire (up to 30 minutes)
  • National Contexts Survey to be completed at the country/system level