CAS and ethical education
There are many definitions of ethical education. The more interesting ones acknowledge that it involves more than simply “learning about ethics”. Meaningful ethical education—the development of ethical beings—happens only when people’s feelings and behavior change, as well as their ideas.
Because it involves real activities with significant outcomes, CAS provides a major opportunity for ethical education, understood as involving principles, attitudes and behavior. The emphasis in CAS is on helping students to develop their own identities, in accordance with the ethical principles embodied in the IB mission statement and the IB learner profile. Various ethical issues will arise naturally in the course of CAS activities, and may be experienced as challenges to a student’s ideas, instinctive responses or ways of behaving (for example, towards other people). In the context of CAS, schools have a specific responsibility to support students’ personal growth as they think, feel and act their way through ethical issues
One of the central tenets of CAS and Experiential learning is that significant personal growth results from meaningful reflection. Reflection however, is a skill that needs to be developed. It should not be assumed that it comes naturally. Just as the kind of reflection that a critic applies to a work of art or literature is something that develops with time and experience, so the kind of reflection appropriate in CAS is something that requires guidance and practice.
The fundamentals are simple. Of any activity, it is appropriate to ask the following questions.
- What did I plan to do?
- What did I do?
- What were the outcomes, for me, the team I was working with, and others? The difficulty lies in the complexity of the possible answers.
Kinds of reflection
Different kinds of reflection work for different people. Reflection can be:
- public or private
- individual or shared
- objective or subjective.
For example, in a CAS group project, the planning stages are largely public, so reflection on them can be largely public, shared and objective. The term “largely” is used because there may be individual views that arise independently, in terms of how satisfactory the process was for a particular student (who may enter and leave the activity with different personal experiences from others).
Carrying out the project is likely to be both public and private, both individual and shared, and both objective and subjective.
Outcomes of a project or other activity are similar: there may be objective successes and limitations of the activity as a whole, but what it has meant for the team and for individuals within it may be more varied.
For some students and some kinds of reflection (such as private, individual, subjective), writing is the best tool for reflection. However, for many, reflective writing does not come naturally. It can, to some extent, be “modelled” in oral discussion of more public, less sensitive matters, either as an end in itself or as a prelude to writing.
But writing is by no means the only possible outcome of reflection. Students can present their activities orally to peers, parents or outsiders. They can make scrapbooks, photo essays, videos/DVDs or weblogs. They can use journals or make up varied portfolios. Or they may sometimes simply reflect privately: some of the most important lessons may be very personal ones that students should be allowed to keep to themselves.
Experiential learners should be asking themselves the following questions at each stage (early middle and end) of an activity :
- how I felt
- what I perceived
- what I thought about the activity
- what the activity meant to me
- what the value of the activity was
- what I learned from the activity and how this learning (for example, a change of perspective) might apply more widely.
- what I might have done differently
- how can I make sure your work endures
- what might I do in the future
Often the most meaningful aspect of a CAS activity is in relationships to other people.
- who did I meet?
- who helped me and how?
- who surprised, inspired, disappointed me etc. and how?
- who benefited from my activity and how?
CAS activities must be documented. Students are expected supply evidence of their participation and note their reflections upon their experiences. AT AISD we have adopted Managebac.com which is widely recognized as the best CAS management systems available. Documentation in Managebac may take many forms, including weblogs, videos, photographs, podcasts and more.
Some of the most valuable recording and reporting happens when there is a real audience and purpose, for example, when students report to fellow students, parents or the wider community. This website is great place for students to showcase their work and reach a wide audience.
The IB requires that students meet with their CAS adviser 3 times while engaged in the diploma program, at least twice in year 1 and once in year 2, where your progress is discussed and appropriate encouragement and advice is given. At AISD students are encourage to seek additional consultations as the need arises. The first line of support is the students activity supervisor, followed by the CAS Adviser, CAS Coordinator and the IB Coordinator.
At the conclusion of your program you will request a final interview with your advisor to review your program. The school will record the completion decision for each student, noting the evidence for each learning outcome. This decision is reported to the regional office, as specified in the Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Programme.