IB CAS Guide

IB CAS Guide

What is CAS?


…if you believe in something, you must not just think or talk or write, but must act.
Peterson (2003)

The Creativity, Action, Service component of the International Baccalaureate is an integral part of the Diploma. Participation in the IB CAS requirement encourages students to be involved in creative pursuits, physical activities and service projects in the local, national and international context.

It takes seriously the importance of life outside the world of scholarship, requiring students to share their energies and special talents while developing awareness, concern and the ability to work cooperatively with others.

CAS extends students. It develops a spirit of open-mindedness, lifelong learning, discovery and self-reliance. It inspires a sense of responsibility towards all members of the community.  It encourages the development of attitudes and traits that will be respected by others, such as determination and commitment, initiative and empathy.

The three elements (Creativity, Action, and Service) of CAS are interwoven. The service element is the most significant, but the other two are very important as they provide access, balance, and flexibility to meet individual students’ interests and preferences. It is the interaction of them all that creates the richness of CAS.

The whole of CAS is greater than the sum of its parts.

Nuts and Bolts

CAS must endure at least 18 months to complete. CAS is pass or fail. There are no other grades for CAS. Students are expected to do 3-5 hours of CAS work per week. You can not receive an IB diploma without passing CAS.

What is CAS?

CAS is learning by doing and reflecting.

In CAS the emphasis is on learning by doing real tasks that have real consequences and then reflecting on these experiences over time.

This process of doing and then reflecting on the doing provides an excellent opportunity to extend what is learned in the classroom.

The most meaningful CAS experience comes from spending time with others to build relationships and develop the self-worth of both server and served.

The activities should be undertaken gradually, be appropriately adapted to the circumstances, and take into account the student’s aptitudes and preferences. The experience should never be a shock for students; this would be counter to the educational aims of the programme; rather it should reward and enrich all involved. When well carried out, CAS builds self-esteem, self-confidence, autonomy and self-reliance.

CAS is Experiential Learning

While different Diploma Programme subjects offer varying amounts of opportunity for experiential learning, it is at the very heart of CAS. Experiential learning involves much more than just the activity itself: planning, acting, observing and reflecting are all crucial in making the experience as valuable as possible.

There is an extensive literature on experiential learning. Figure 1 may be compared with those developed by David A Kolb and others who have followed him (Kolb 1984; Chapman 2005). Kolb’s “working definition” is useful, in that it emphasizes that experience on its own does not guarantee learning.

[Experiential] learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.
Kolb (1984)

Among the benefits of experiential learning are the following. Students are enabled to:

  • see the application of academic learning, social and personal skills to real‐life situations
  • bring real benefits to self and/or others
  • understand their own capacity to make a difference
  • make decisions that have real, not hypothetical, results
  • develop skills to solve problems
  • develop a sense of responsibility and accountability for their actions.

CAS is Finding Balance

CAS enables students to enhance their personal and interpersonal development through experiential learning. At the same time, it provides an important counterbalance to the academic pressures of the rest of the Diploma Programme. A good CAS programme should be both challenging and enjoyable, a personal journey of self-discovery. Each individual student has a different starting point, and therefore different goals and needs, but for many their CAS activities include experiences that are profound and life-changing.

CAS is Purposeful

For student development to occur, CAS should involve:

  • real, purposeful activities, with significant outcomes
  • personal challenge—tasks must extend the student and be achievable in scope
  • thoughtful consideration, such as planning, reviewing progress, reporting
  • reflection on outcomes and personal learning.

All proposed CAS activities need to meet these four criteria. It is also essential that they do not replicate other parts of the student’s Diploma Programme work.

If you are geting credit for the activity as part of another IB class it cannot count as CAS.

Concurrency of learning is important in the Diploma Programme. Therefore, CAS activities should continue on a regular basis for as long as possible throughout the programme, and certainly for at least 18 months.

Successful completion of CAS is a requirement for the award of the IB diploma. CAS is not formally assessed but students need to document their activities and provide evidence that they have achieved eight key learning outcomes. A school’s CAS programme is regularly monitored by the relevant regional office.

CAS is Creativity

Creativity in CAS is interpreted as imaginatively as possible to cover a wide range of arts and other activities outside the normal curriculum, which includes creative thinking in the design and carrying out of service projects.

This could involve doing starting a newspaper, making a film, choreographing a dance, directing or acting in a theatre piece, learning an instrument, participation in a musical production, choir, orchestra, band, art (both personal and community), or designing a coaching, outdoor education or service programme.

Students should be engaged in group activities, and especially in new roles, wherever possible. Nevertheless, individual commitment to learning an art form is allowed where it respects the requirements for all CAS activities, which are that goals be set, and carried out and that students reflect on progress.

Creative activities should have a definite goal or outcome. They should be planned and evaluated like all CAS activities. This can present something of a challenge where, for example, a student is a dedicated instrumental musician. It would be artificial to rule that something that is both a pleasure and a passion for the student could not be considered part of their CAS experience. How, though, can it help to fulfill CAS learning outcomes? It may be useful to refer back to the section “The nature of creativity, action, service”, particularly to the second principle: personal challenge—tasks must extend the student and be achievable in scope.

Perhaps the instrumental musician can learn a particularly difficult piece, or a different style of playing, in order to perform for an audience. The context might be a fund-raising activity, or the student might give a talk to younger children about the instrument, with musical illustrations. Appropriate CAS activities are not merely “more of the same”—more practice, more concerts with the school band, and so on. This excludes, for example, routine practice performed by IB music or dance students (as noted earlier), but does not exclude music, dance or art activities that these students are involved with outside the Diploma Programme subject coursework.

CAS is Action

Action includes participation in expeditions, individual and team sports, and physical activities outside the normal curriculum; it also includes physical activity involved in carrying out creative and service projects.

Action could involve participation in sport or other activities requiring physical exertion such as expeditions and camping trips, coaching, self-defence classes, peer tutoring, environmental concerns groups, student council led projects, backstage team, and leadership roles in outdoor education or service trips endeavours.  The key to suitability of action is that goals are set up and carried out and students reflect on their progress.

An outstanding athlete will not stop training and practising in order to engage in some arbitrary, invented CAS physical activity. However, modern approaches to sports coaching emphasize the notion of the reflective practitioner, so it is possible for the athletics coach to incorporate relevant CAS principles and practice into training schedules for the benefit of the student. Setting goals, and planning and reflecting on their achievement, is vital. “Extending” the student may go further, for example, to asking them to pass on some of their skills and knowledge to others. If their chosen sport is entirely individual, perhaps they should try a team game, in order to experience the different pleasures and rewards on offer.

Some excellent “action” activities are not sporting or competitive but involve physical challenge by demanding endurance (such as long-distance trekking) or the conquest of personal fears (for example, rock climbing).

Alternatively, a student’s “action” may be physical exertion as part of a service activity, perhaps in a project as outlined in the section “Projects, themes, concepts”.

CAS is Service

Service projects and activities are often the most transforming element of the Diploma Programme for the individual student; they have the potential to nurture and mould the global citizen. Service is also one of the things that we do best at AISD.

Service involves interaction, such as the building of links with individuals or groups in the community. Community may be thought of as local, regional and global. Service activities should not only involve doing things for others but doing things with others and developing a real commitment with them. The relationship should therefore show respect for the dignity and self-respect of others. Students must have set up goals for these projects, must carry them out and must be able to reflect upon their progress.

At AISD there are incredible service oppertunities for CAS projects. The Service Learning program provides a diverse range of oppertunities for IB students to engage in meaningful community projects. CAS students are encouraged to seek leadership roles in their service groups.

It is essential that service activities have learning benefits for the student. Otherwise, they are not experiential learning (hence not CAS) and have no particular claim on students’ time. This rules out mundane, repetitive activities, as well as “service” without real responsibility. A learning benefit that enriches the student personally is in no way inconsistent with the requirement that service be unpaid and voluntary.

The general principle that the “rights, dignity and autonomy of all those involved [in service activities] are respected”, means, among other things, that the identification of needs, towards which a service activity will be directed, has to involve prior communication and full consultation with the community or individual concerned. This approach, based on a collaborative exchange, maximizes both the potential benefits to the recipients and the learning opportunities for the students.

Ideally, such prior communication and consultation will be face-to-face and will involve the students themselves. Where this is not possible, schools need to work with appropriate partners or intermediaries, such as NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and make every effort to ensure both that the service provided is appropriate, and that the students are able to understand the human consequences of their work, for both individuals and communities.

CAS Outcomes

Learning outcomes are differentiated from assessment objectives because they are not rated on a scale. The completion decision for the school in relation to each student is, simply, “Have these outcomes been achieved?”

As a result of their CAS experience as a whole, including their reflections, there should be evidence that students have:

  1. Increased their awareness of their own strengths and areas for growth
    They are able to see themselves as individuals with various skills and abilities, some more developed than others, and understand that they can make choices about how they wish to move forward.
  2. Undertaken new challenges
    A new challenge may be an unfamiliar activity, or an extension to an existing one.
  3. Planned and initiated activities
    Planning and initiation will often be in collaboration with others. It can be shown in activities that are part of larger projects, for example, ongoing school activities in the local community, as well as in small student-led activities.
  4. Worked collaboratively with others
    Collaboration can be shown in many different activities, such as team sports, playing music in a band, or helping in a kindergarten. At least one project, involving collaboration and the integration of at least two of creativity, action and service, is required.
  5. Shown perseverance and commitment in their activities
    At a minimum, this implies attending regularly and accepting a share of the responsibility for dealing with problems that arise in the course of activities.
  6. Engaged with issues of global importance
    Students may be involved in international projects but there are many global issues that can be acted upon locally or nationally (for example, environmental concerns, caring for the elderly).
  7. Considered the ethical implications of their actions
    Ethical decisions arise in almost any CAS activity (for example, on the sports field, in musical composition, in relationships with others involved in service activities). Evidence of thinking about ethical issues can be shown in various ways, including journal entries and conversations with CAS advisers.
  8. Developed new skills
    As with new challenges, new skills may be shown in activities that the student has not previously undertaken, or in increased expertise in an established area.

All eight outcomes must be present for a student to complete the CAS requirement. Some may be demonstrated many times, in a variety of activities, but completion requires only that there is some evidence for every outcome.

This focus on learning outcomes emphasizes that it is the quality of a CAS activity (its contribution to the student’s development) that is of most importance. The guideline for the minimum amount of CAS activity is approximately the equivalent of half a day per school week (three to four hours per week), or approximately 150 hours in total, with a reasonable balance between creativity, action and service. “Hour counting”, however, is not encouraged.

Religious activity

It is recognized that this is a sensitive and difficult area. Nevertheless, the general rule is that religious devotion, and any activity that can be interpreted as proselytizing, does not count as CAS.

Some relevant guiding principles are that CAS activities should enlarge students’ experience, encourage them towards greater understanding of people from different social or cultural backgrounds and include specific goals. By these criteria, work done by a religious group in the wider community, provided that the objectives are clearly secular, may qualify as CAS. Another key issue is whether students are able to make choices and use their initiative. In contrast, service (even of a secular nature) that takes place entirely within a religious community can at best only partially meet the aims and learning outcomes of CAS, so there would need to be evidence from students’ other activities that all the required outcomes had been met.

CAS advisers who are faced with difficult questions in this area may find it helpful to ask students which of the CAS learning outcomes their proposed activity would meet, and how it might be possible to strengthen it in terms of CAS requirements. Activities may be very valuable to students as members of a religious community but nevertheless contribute little in terms of experiential learning.