CAS and the IB Diploma Programme


CAS and the IB Diploma Programme

CAS experiences can be associated with each of the subject groups of the Diploma Programme. Teachers can assist students in making links between their subjects and their CAS experiences where appropriate. This will provide students with relevance in both their subject learning and their CAS learning through purposeful discussion and real experiences. It will motivate and challenge the students, strengthen subject understanding and knowledge, and allow students to enjoy different approaches to their subjects. However, CAS experiences must be distinct from, and may not be included or used, in the student’s Diploma course requirements. Each subject group of the Diploma Programme can contribute towards CAS. The examples below are suggestions only; teachers and students can create their own authentic connections where possible.

Group 1 students could engage in creative writing, produce audiobooks for the blind or write a movie and produce it.

Group 2 students could provide language lessons to those in need, develop language guides using technology or raise awareness of the culture of the language being studied through a website or other forms of communication.

Group 3 students could record the oral histories of people living in elderly residential facilities and create family memoirs, create a social enterprise addressing a community need or collaborate on a community garden.

Group 4 students could form an astronomy club for younger students, help maintain a nature reserve or promote physical participation in “walk to school” groups.

Group 5 students could teach younger children to overcome mathematical challenges, maintain financial accounts for a local charity or plan a mathematics scavenger hunt at school to highlight the importance of mathematics in everyday life.

Group 6 students could take dance lessons that lead to a theatrical performance, participate in a community art exhibition or community initiatives (such as performances or photo exhibits) for hospitals or aged-care facilities.


TOK guides students in making sense of their experiences as learners, and this includes their experiences in CAS. TOK is a course about critical thinking and inquiring into the process of knowing. The course encourages students to examine the presuppositions and assumptions that underpin their own knowledge and understanding of the world. In TOK the knower draws knowledge from two sources: personal knowledge and shared knowledge. CAS experiences are an important source of students’ personal knowledge, providing students with the opportunity to gain awareness of the world in a range of diverse and challenging situations. Shared knowledge extends the idea from how individuals construct knowledge to how communities construct knowledge. In CAS, students might draw on TOK discussions that deepen understanding of different communities and cultures.

CAS also provides links to other areas of the TOK course. For example, a student participating in a visual arts experience for creativity could reflect on the roles of intuition and imagination as “ways of knowing” in the arts area of knowledge. Some students make links between CAS and TOK when carrying out a TOK assessment task. For example, a student’s CAS experiences may also provide rich real-life situations for students to use as the basis for their TOK oral presentation. Further, CAS experiences provide the basis from which knowledge questions can be derived.
In both CAS and TOK, students reflect on their beliefs and assumptions, leading to more thoughtful, responsible and purposeful lives.

Ethics in TOK

CAS helps students to “recognize and consider the ethics of choices and actions”, in accordance with the ethical principles stated in the IB mission statement and the IB learner profile. This involves exploring values, attitudes and behaviours as students undertake enterprises with significant outcomes. Various ethical issues will arise naturally in the course of CAS experiences, and may be seen as challenges to a student’s preconceived ideas and instinctive responses or ways of behaving. 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.

It is important that schools take the opportunity to use the CAS experiences to understand the ethical systems explored in TOK. CAS coordinators can assist students in identifying ethical principles to guide their actions. As a result, students grow in their awareness of the consequences of choices and actions in planning and carrying out CAS experiences. Increased ethical sensibility supports students in understanding that they are responsible and accountable for their actions, and leads to their acting with integrity.

The CAS coordinator must exercise sensitivity, since students may come from family and cultural backgrounds with different worldviews that shape personal values and beliefs. While it is important to recognize and respect differences, the values and ethical practices that underpin CAS must align with the IB learner profile.

CAS, the extended essay and the world studies extended essay

Through CAS experiences, a student’s exposure to particular global issues at a local level may give rise to an interest in furthering their understanding of these issues through academic research. Both the extended essay and the world studies extended essay allow students to explore the issues that may have arisen during CAS.

In the extended essay, students may research and explore personal interests that link with a subject of the Diploma Programme.

The world studies extended essay provides students with an opportunity to undertake an in-depth, interdisciplinary study of an issue of contemporary global significance manifested at a local level. Students can choose to explore a topic from one of the following global themes.

  • Language, culture and identity
  • Science, technology and society
  • Equality and inequality
  • Conflict, peace and security
  • Economic and/or environmental sustainability
  • Health and development

The world studies extended essay provides opportunities for a well-grounded appreciation and understanding of these themes, which in turn may lead to a more considered involvement in CAS.

CAS within the IB continuum of international education

All IB programmes address students’ cognitive, social, emotional and physical well-being and offer opportunities for students to become active and caring members of local, national and global communities. CAS purposefully builds on the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and the Middle Years Programme (MYP), establishing continuity across the IB continuum of international education. CAS represents part of the Diploma Programme’s ongoing commitment to the IB learner profile. As the IB’s mission in action, the learner profile concisely describes the aspirations of a global community that shares the values underlying the IB’s educational philosophy. Through CAS, students continue to strengthen the approaches to learning they encounter and develop in the PYP and MYP. In approaches to learning, students are encouraged to grow both personally and socially, developing skills such as cooperation, problem-solving, conflict resolution and creative and critical thinking, as well as developing their own identities. CAS continues to develop students’ ability to engage in critical reflection, offering increasingly sophisticated opportunities for students to analyse their own thinking, effort and performance. Students also learn how to set challenging goals and develop the commitment and perseverance to achieve them. The elements of approaches to learning and the attributes of the learner profile highlighted and developed across the continuum of IB programmes are lived through the variety of CAS experiences and CAS project(s). Further, during CAS students continue to develop individual and shared responsibility, and effective teamwork and collaboration.

The nature of CAS

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

CAS is at the heart of the Diploma Programme. With its holistic approach, CAS is designed to strengthen and extend students’ personal and interpersonal learning from the PYP and MYP.

CAS is organized around the three strands of creativity, activity and service defined as follows.

  • Creativity—exploring and extending ideas leading to an original or interpretive product or performance.
  • Activity—physical exertion contributing to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Service—collaborative and reciprocal engagement with the community in response to an authentic need.

As a shining beacon of our values, CAS enables students to demonstrate attributes of the IB learner profile in real and practical ways, to grow as unique individuals and to recognize their role in relation to others. Students develop skills, attitudes and dispositions through a variety of individual and group experiences that provide students with opportunities to explore their interests and express their passions, personalities and perspectives. CAS complements a challenging academic programme in a holistic way, providing opportunities for self-determination, collaboration, accomplishment and enjoyment. CAS enables students to enhance their personal and interpersonal development. A meaningful CAS programme is a journey of discovery of self and others. For many, CAS is profound and life-changing. Each individual student has a different starting point and different needs and goals. A CAS programme is, therefore, individualized according to student interests, skills, values and background.

The school and students must give CAS as much importance as any other element of the Diploma Programme and ensure sufficient time is allocated for engagement in the CAS programme. The CAS stages offer a helpful and supportive framework and continuum of process for CAS students. Successful completion of CAS is a requirement for the award of the IB Diploma. While not formally assessed, students reflect on their CAS experiences and provide evidence in their CAS portfolios of achieving the seven learning outcomes. The CAS programme formally begins at the start of the Diploma Programme and continues regularly, ideally on a weekly basis, for at least 18 months with a reasonable balance between creativity, activity, and service.

All CAS students are expected to maintain and complete a CAS portfolio as evidence of their engagement with CAS. The CAS portfolio is a collection of evidence that showcases CAS experiences and for student reflections; it is not formally assessed. Completion of CAS is based on student achievement of the seven CAS learning outcomes. Through their CAS portfolio, students provide the school with evidence demonstrating achievement of each learning outcome. Students engage in CAS experiences involving one or more of the three CAS strands. A CAS experience can be a single event or may be an extended series of events.

Further, students undertake a CAS project of at least one month’s duration that challenges students to show initiative, demonstrate perseverance, and develop skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, and decision-making. The CAS project can address any single strand of CAS, or combine two or all three strands. Students use the CAS stages (investigation, preparation, action, reflection and demonstration) as a framework for CAS experiences and the CAS project. There are three formal documented interviews students must have with their CAS coordinator/adviser. The first interview is at the beginning of the CAS programme, the second at the end of the first year, and the third interview is at the end of the CAS programme. CAS emphasizes reflection which is central to building a deep and rich experience in CAS. Reflection informs students’ learning and growth by allowing students to explore ideas, skills, strengths, limitations and areas for further development and consider how they may use prior learning in new contexts.

CAS Experiences

A CAS experience is a specific event in which the student engages with one or more of the three CAS strands.

CAS experience can be a single event or may be an extended series of events.

A CAS project is a collaborative series of sequential CAS experiences lasting at least one month.

Typically, a student’s CAS programme combines planned/unplanned singular and ongoing experiences. All are valuable and may lead to personal development. However, a meaningful CAS programme must be more than unplanned/singular experiences. A series of planned CAS experiences are recommended for a more engaging CAS programme.

CAS experiences may incorporate one or more of the CAS strands. For example:

  • Going for a mountain hike could be a singular experience within the “Activity” strand.
  • A student plans a number of visits to a nursing home resulting in a series of CAS experiences within the “Service” strand.
  • A group of students plan and stage a basketball tournament for the local community, resulting in a series of CAS experiences involving the strands of “Activity” and “Service”.


Guidelines to CAS experiences

The CAS coordinator assists students in understanding what may or may not be a CAS experience. There are four guidelines that should be applied to any proposed CAS experience.

A CAS experience must:

  • fit within one or more of the CAS strands
  • be based on a personal interest, skill, talent or opportunity for growth
  • provide opportunities to develop the attributes of the IB learner profile
  • not be used or included in the student’s Diploma course requirements

To further assist students in deciding on a CAS experience, the following questions may be useful for students to consider.

    • Will the experience be enjoyable?
    • Does the experience allow for development of personal interests, skills and/or talents?
    • What new possibilities or challenges could the experience provide?
    • What might be the possible consequences of your CAS experience for you, others and the environment?
    • Which CAS learning outcomes may be addressed?

While it is not necessary for each CAS experience to address a CAS learning outcome, upon completion of the CAS programme, CAS students are required to present evidence demonstrating achievement of all CAS learning outcomes.

CAS stages

The CAS stages (adapted from Cathryn Berger Kaye’s “five stages of service learning”, 2010) offer a helpful and supportive framework and continuum of process for CAS students as they consider what they would like to do in CAS, make plans, and carry out their ideas. The CAS stages are applicable to the three strands of creativity, activity, service, and the CAS project.
These CAS stages represent a process and sequence that can assist students in many aspects of their life. They follow a process whereby they investigate an interest that often raises questions and curiosity, prepare by learning more, take some form of action, reflect on what they have done along the way, and demonstrate their understandings and the process. By applying these stages to CAS, students have a reliable yet flexible structure they can then apply to future situations with confidence.


There are two parts as noted in the diagram. The centre represents the process with four key parts: investigation, preparation, action, and reflection (occurring intermittently in response to significant experiences). The outer circle has two parts and guides students in summarizing their experience: reflection and demonstration.

The five CAS stages are as follows.

    1. Investigation: Students identify their interests, skills and talents to be used in considering opportunities for CAS experiences, as well as areas for personal growth and development. Students investigate what they want to do and determine the purpose for their CAS experience. In the case of service, students identify a need they want to address.
    2. Preparation: Students clarify roles and responsibilities, develop a plan of actions to be taken, identify specified resources and timelines, and acquire any skills as needed to engage in the CAS experience.
    3. Action: Students implement their idea or plan. This often requires decision-making and problem-solving. Students may work individually, with partners, or in groups.
    4. Reflection: Students describe what happened, express feelings, generate ideas, and raise questions. Reflection can occur at any time during CAS to further understanding, to assist with revising plans, to learn from the experience, and to make explicit connections between their growth, accomplishments, and the learning outcomes for personal awareness. Reflection may lead to new action.
    5. Demonstration: Students make explicit what and how they learned and what they have accomplished, for example, by sharing their CAS experience through their CAS portfolio or with others in an informal or formal manner. Through demonstration and communication, students solidify their understanding and evoke response from others.

The CAS stages provide a framework that enables students to:

  • increase self-awareness
  • learn about learning
  • explore new and unfamiliar challenges
  • employ different learning styles
  • develop their ability to communicate and collaborate with others
  • experience and recognize personal development
  • develop attributes of the IB learner profile.

For singular CAS experiences, students may begin with investigation, preparation, or action. For ongoing CAS experiences, beginning with investigation is advised. In these ongoing experiences, the action stage may lead students back to investigation or preparation as they further develop, expand and implement new or related ideas.

Kaye, CB, M.A. 2010. The Complete Guide to Service Learning: Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, & Social Action (Second Edition). Minneapolis, Minnesota,

International Baccalaureate Organization. January 2014. Programme standards and practices. Cardiff, UK. IB Publishing.

CAS Guide, IB – for use from 2017

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