Note: since attending this workshop I have developed some free, open source software for helping CAS Coordinators manage their job. The solution is a module for the Gibbon school platform, which is also freely available. Please visit www.thegibbon.org for more information. Feel free to email me (ross@rossparker.org) if you have any Gibbon/CAS questions.

Over the last three days I have been attending the DP CAS  (Category 1) Regional Workshop courtesy of the IBO’s Asia Pacific office. The course, presented by Cheryl Keegan, aims to prepare would-be coordinators to administrate the Creativity-Action-Service (CAS) component of the International Bachelaurette’s Diploma Programme. The workshop, which is part of a much bigger IB professional development event, is being hosted by RCHK, a member of the ESF family of schools. Including over 600 teachers, from dozens of countries, this event is probably the largest training event I have been part of. Rather than writing a full description of the course, which would be very long, I have decided just to provide the following list of key points and ideas.

Thanks to Cheryl for running a comprehensive and thoughtful workshop, and for letting me reproduce some of her work here verbatim.

What is CAS? Why is CAS Important?

  • CAS is the philosophy of the IBDP put into practice through engagement in activities that are based in creativity, action and service. It is a chance to solidify learning through practice.
  • The IBDP is extremely tough, thorough and challenging, and CAS aims to offer a counterpoint to rigorous intellectual pursuit. It is about balance.
  • Often students focus on a small number of activities or sports: CAS aims to challenge students to try new and different things, and thus challenge them to adapt, reflect, grow and develop.
  • CAS cannot be a token: even though it is not graded (students must complete it though), it is a key part of the what IBDP offers. It sets the DP apart from other educational systems.
  • Refreshingly, CAS does not aim to be standardised or homogenised: it is about challenging students in relation to themselves, rather than to an external standard.
  • Failure in a CAS activity is acceptable: it is more important to learn from experiences than to always succeed.
  • As a selling point, CAS makes students stand out in the activity process. It is also the single biggest reason that students fail the IBDP (which can cause problems with and pressure from parents and administrators).

CAS Roles

  • Coordinator – school staff with overall responsibility for CAS. Must produce a CAS programme that fits the needs and stage of the school and students, whilst meeting the IBO’s requirements.
  • Advisor– school staff who work with students in guiding them to completing the CAS requirements
    • In a small CAS environment, this is ofter the coordinator, but once there are more than 50 students it becomes hard to manage alone.
  • Supervisor– someone who is responsible for observing and monitoring students undertaking an activity, who is:
    • An adult
    • Not a family member of the student
      • It is best to apply this rule 100% across the board, to avoid disputes

CAS Guide

The CAS Guide is the IBO’s official documentation for the CAS program.

CAS Booklet

The CAS Booklet is a booklet (paper or electronic) produced by the CAS Coordinator for students, colleagues and parents to set the tone and rules for a school’s CAS programme. The guide should be clear, unambiguous, prepared in advance and publisised so that it can be used to educate and mediate disputes.

CAS Aims & Outcomes

CAS has 4 aims, and a total of 8 outcomes through which students are assessed in their efforts to work towards the aims. It is assumed that all students will work at different levels, and that they need to be assessed against their own starting point. The aim is growth and development, rather than hitting arbitrary targets. This represents a change, from the previous approach which involved counting hours of participation.

The outcomes should ideally not be shared with the students from the beginning, but rather should be allowed to “creep up” on them. This ensures students are seeking genuine experiences, rather than trying to tick particular boxes. It is largely up to the school to determine what is “enough” in terms of meeting the outcomes. Ultimately, this comes down the CAS Coordinator, who must set the tone and rigor of their school’s program. How can these standards be set and maintained?

It is important to note that the effort to meet the CAS outcomes must be over the entire course of the IBDP, not just at single points within it.

What is an Activity? Where do Activities Come From?

The largest concern with CAS is which activities are permitted in each of the three categories, and how these opportunities are created. There is a common misconception that the CAS Coordinator is responsible for running all extra-curricular activities. In reality, the Coordinator is responsible for finding and vetting enough service activities (which can be more risky), but creativity and action should be taken care of by other staff. Activities can (should?) be student initiated, but vetting is still required to protect students, staff and the school.

Each student needs to undertake a range of activities, which should be collectively undertaken through the IBDP. Only half of a single area’s requirements can be met through one activity. There is no hour-based counting, although a minimum of 150 hours are recommended, in order to suggest parity with a standard-level subject.

When deciding which activities are and are not CAS, there are few hard and fast rules: instead Coordinators should look to follow the spirit of the IB’s learn profile and of CAS (real, challenge, learning, try new things, reflection, serving, leadership, health, wellbeing, initiative). That said, the following rules should be applied:

  • Creativity
    • Students need to be learning and thinking creatively.
  • Action
    • Students should be working physically (i.e. sweating).
  • Service
    • Student should receive no payment or reward.
    • Service should not be in-school unless it is meaningful and unavoidable. However, good service can involve sharing the school site with  less well resourced groups that are brought in. This can include orphanages, elderly homes, etc.
    • If the recipient organisation (school, NGO, etc.) can afford to pay for the service, it is not service (although it can be used as creativity.

Although students must be challenged, the challenge must be appropriate (not too extreme), and it is important to remember that different students are challenged by different things in different ways.

Balance of C, A & S

The three areas do not have to be undertaken in equal measure, but should be balanced according to the needs and previous experiences of each individual students. The IBO would prefer a greater focus on the service element, and this is the area that students need to make sure they really meet.

Local, National, International

There is a common misconception that CAS service needs to be international, but this is not the case. A good balance is lots of local service, less national and a little international. Sometimes, when international travel is not possible, people can be brought in to the school to give a taste of it.

Resourcing

The quality of a CAS programme depends on the resources (money, time, etc) made available to run it. This can cause issues with administrators. The IBO says that schools must (for authorisation) demonstrate a commitment to CAS from all members of the school community.

Responsibilities of the School

From Cheryl’s documentation:

  • Schools provide appropriate resources and staff to support the delivery of an appropriate and varied CAS programme. This means enough money to allow you to arrange transport, and enough money to pay teachers to do service as well as sport and creativity – what else?
  • Students have opportunities to choose their own CAS activities and to undertake activities in a local and international context as appropriate. This means that that the programme must be wide enough for students to have choices and that every activity cannot be mandatory – how?
  • Students have appropriate opportunities to reflect on their CAS experiences guided by teacher advisors who provide appropriate feedback. This means that the CAS programme must provide options for students to reflect and must guide them until they are reaching a reasonable level of reflection – how?

Also:

  • Teach students the skills required for reflection, so that it can be meaningful. Reflection is the way to achieve change!
  • Record all student progress (student reflections, interview notes, etc), and keep documentation to help mediate disputes. This documentation needs to be kept for 18 months after the cohort has completed there exams.

Responsibilities of the Student

From Cheryl’s documentation:

  • To fulfill the IB programme standards, students need the chance to choose their own CAS activities in a local, national or international context. They need to “own” their personal CAS programmes. With guidance from mentors and advisors they should also initiate activities where appropriate. They are required to:
  • Self-review at the beginning of their CAS experience and set personal goals for what they hope to achieve through their CAS programme.
  • Take part in a range of activities, including at least one project, some of which they have initiated themselves
  • Plan, do and reflect (plan activities, carry them out and reflect on what they have learned)
  • Undertake at least one interim review and a final review with their CAS advisor
  • Keep records of their activities and achievements, including a list of the principal activities undertaken
  • Show evidence of achievement of the eight CAS learning outcomes

Also:

  • Goals must be real, and they should be difficult (e.g. something the student has not done before).
  • Student evidence must be predominantly reflective and written. Multimedia can be used as an adjunct, but cannot be the core.

Setting Up & Running CAS – Checklist

From Cheryl’s documentation:

  • RANGE AND DIVERSITY OF ACTIVITIES
    • vary in length
    • none should be trivial
    • ongoing relationships with local organizations
    • major, concentrated, one-off activities
    • activities which satisfy a state or other award scheme qualification
    • NOT
      • part of subjects, EE or TOK
      • routine practice by music or dance subject people
  • Projects, themes, concepts
    • at least one involving teamwork, integrating two or more of C,A,S, of significant duration
    • perhaps along the lines of an IB identified theme
    • www.un.org/millenniumgoals/
    • global issues search
    • JF Richard’s twenty global problems (R ’02)
  • Creativity
    • Personal challenge – task must extend the student
    • A music, dance or art activity outside the DP
  • Action (in the DP IS physical)
    • Setting goals, planning and reflecting on achievements
    • Individual and team sports
    • Non-sporting or competitive
    • Physical as part of service
  • Service
    • Have learning benefits
    • Prior identification of needs, consultation with community or individual (and students is possible)
    • Service learning linked to a subject, but as an extension CANNOT COUNT TWICE,
    • should be student initiated
    • NOT
      • Mundane, repetitive, with no responsibility
  • Political activity
    • Can be if safe and appropriate
  • Religious activity
    • Secular objectives
    • NOT
      • Devotion
  • Proselytizing

Running A CAS Programme – Timeline

From Cheryl’s documentation:

  • Building a new CAS programme takes time. It involves making contact with appropriate partners and deciding that some activities are no longer valuable. It also involves following student initiatives which lead in new directions. Starting out:
    • Step 1– consult the Handbook of Procedures for the Diploma Programme to ensure the requirements related to monitoring and reporting are met. Also to ensure that sufficient resources are available before the CAS programme commences.  A condition of the Diploma Programme Authorisation is that schools demonstrate a commitment to CAS from all members of the school community. The school therefore must provide the budget, time, staffing and resources necessary to run a successful CAS programme. CAS is central to the Diploma programme and its organization and resourcing must not be left solely to students. Asking students to raise funds to provide a CAS budget is not appropriate. Check the New CAS Guide (p15) for human, staff and partners, students, parents, in-school and out-of-school resources.
    • Step 2 -Make information available to students
    • Step 3 – ensure sufficient contact time
    • Step 4 – monitoring of programme in place – refelction and interview
    • Step 5 – record of personal CAS upon completion – Individual Student Completion form
    • Step 6 – school review CAS programme as necessary.

Online Resources

Personal Reflection

Over the last three days, my understanding of what CAS is and is not has shifted noticablbly. Despite, or perhaps becuase of, a long involvement with CAS from the ICT support side, I had believed that CAS was intrinsicly tied up with the running of after school activities. Consequently, I had underestimated the aspects to do with personal challenge, change and service. I was thus reluctant to take on the CAS Coordinator role, believing it to be relatively mundane. I now realise that it is challenging and potentially reward, offering a chance to work with students in a new way.

On return to school, I will instigate dialog to ensure that my taking on the CAS Coordinator role does not mean I also end up running C & A activities. As time permits in the course of the coming months, I will put in to place some of the structures needed to prepare our school, staff and students for the arrival of the IBDP’s CAS in 2012. My aim is to grow a service culture within our school, with the dual aims of helping our students grow whilst helping to solve real problems of value.