All CAS success stories begin with a great CAS handbook. When used as a fruitful starting point, the handbook demystifies CAS, provides students with clear guidelines, and gets them excited about the journey ahead. It also serves as a valuable reference tool for teachers to track progress, help students (and themselves) stay organized, and accumulate tips and best practices acquired through experience.
Although the IB does provide a helpful framework for getting started on your CAS handbook, each school offers specific challenges and opportunities that benefit from a customized approach to CAS. So, if you are working on a handbook for the first time or are looking for ways to improve your existing document, we are here to help!
We are delighted to share the insight of two experienced CAS Coordinators on how they use the handbook to make CAS an accessible and rewarding experience for their students. Mutiara Moerdani is the CAS Coordinator, Art Teacher and University Counselor at
Sekolah Global Indo-Asia, in Batam, Indonesia, and Felicia Chen is the IBDP Teacher and CAS Coordinator at Dwight Global Online School.
Let’s get to it!
A great CAS handbook should get everyone on the (literal and figurative) same page
CAS Trips: CAS success requires everyone to be on the same page, and the CAS handbook can be a great way to clarify CAS expectations for students and teachers. What aspect of CAS is most often misunderstood by A. teachers and B. students?
Mutiara Moerdani: When juggling different curriculums, as we do at my school, it can be difficult for teachers to stay on top of CAS requirements. Many educators, therefore, need to be more accurate with the amount of preparation and planning required. It is likewise an issue with students, who sometimes assume that all activities can be CAS, including activities without preparation and planning.
This is often due to a misunderstanding of the three strands; I see students listing experiences under Action without referring to physical activity, or they count serving their own organization, such as a student council, as service. Overall, the biggest issue is the need for more planning.
Felicia Chen: I agree! I often see teachers who think CAS is only about doing community service, but it is much more than that! And indeed, with students, it takes some reinforcement to emphasize the activity strand as experiences and projects that improve physical health. In the beginning, students may also feel that they are doing it to fulfil a criterion rather than recognizing the benefits of CAS for their personal development. I have also had students misunderstand how to record their experiences. They think they need to provide evidence for every single minute, which can sound overwhelming and is not true at all.
Use the handbook to build enthusiasm for CAS
CAS Trips: There are definitely a lot of ways to do CAS incorrectly. What strategies do you use throughout your handbook to get students excited about CAS and understand its potential benefits?
Felicia Chen: I encourage my classes to share CAS opportunities with each other and cultivate a sensitivity to others’ interests and experiences. Including student testimonials about the benefits gained from CAS is always a great way to inspire students and emphasize the skills gained from CAS. We now have plenty of research we can use to demonstrate that CAS is great for combating burnout, developing self-awareness and identity, physical health and making the world a better place. Recently, the students and I did a session on quality reflection. We started with a creative experience together and then only reflected on that experience. Students appreciated the time and space given to take a break from academic subjects.
Mutiara Moerdani: I want students to understand that this is an opportunity to gather experiences related to their favorite subjects, interests, and hobbies. This also means encouraging them to improve their strengths and confront their weaknesses. I have found it useful to incorporate relevant examples that will inspire them to participate in an activity related to a current trend, such as creating a podcast or using social media to promote an experience. And, of course, make it clear that they can collaborate with other organizations or communities.
Offer helpful timetables and planning frameworks
CAS Trips: What kind of resources do you provide for students who feel completely overwhelmed by the notion of CAS?
Mutiara Moerdani: I try not to push too hard and remind them that this is a chance to do something they enjoy. It could be a hobby they enjoyed as a child but stopped doing as they grew up. It could also be a skill that they always wanted to learn.
Felicia Chen: Setting a time for CAS is also very useful. Like a timetable for their subjects, I encourage students to commit to a set time to carry out their CAS requirements. It could be as little as 30 minutes weekly. Having CAS as part of their routine makes it less daunting and more enjoyable.
Clear communication is key, too. I also give students handouts and guiding questions as resources to refer to. For students that require extra guidance, we schedule regular checks to help support their progress.
Begin by outlining the sections you want to be part of your handbook
CAS Trips: How has the structure of your CAS handbook evolved with experience? Is there anything you used to include and have dropped, or vice versa?
Mutiara Moerdani: Regarding technical guidance, I follow the IBO guidelines but add some details specific to my school. For example, I have added instructions on how to create a proposal, reflect and plan the CAS experience step-by-step. I also offer samples of all CAS documents, such as the CAS Risk Assessment, Supervisor Letter, and Proposal Format.
Felicia Chen: I was fortunate to work with several mentors who provided many references to my CAS handbook. Currently, my handbook includes the following:
GREETINGS FROM THE CAS COORDINATOR
THE INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE (IB)
CAS TIMELINE & DEADLINES
THE THREE STRANDS OF CAS
WHICH ACTIVITIES COUNT FOR CAS?
WHICH ACTIVITIES DO NOT COUNT FOR CAS?
FULFILLING CAS REQUIREMENTS
PART 1: SUSTAINED EXPERIENCE
PART 2: THE CAS PROJECT
THE SEVEN LEARNING OUTCOMES
GET INVOLVED! HOW TO FIND CAS OPPORTUNITIES
One thing I would do differently is to have an example portfolio so students could refer to it when they require extra guidance. I am also interested in making documentation and portfolio management more seamless and user-friendly.
Remember to look at your CAS Handbook from a student’s perspective
CAS Trips: Thank you so much for sharing this! Do you have any final advice for educators putting together a CAS handbook for the first time?
Mutiara Moerdani: Here are my final tips:
- Create some rules and requirements based on your school’s culture and policy.
- Add the regulations and conditions approved by your school principal.
- Provide students with specific requirements and step-by-step instructions.
- Make sure it is personal, do not just copy from IBO or another school.
- Make it easy to read and understand using visual images, graphics and colours.
Felicia Chen: I agree with everything Mutiara mentioned! In addition, you should look at things from the student’s point of view and their experience navigating the CAS handbook. There is a lot of freedom for the coordinator and the school to structure how CAS best suit their school environment. I recommend being very clear about what structure you require the students to complete and being consistent with that guidance.
For example, I require students to reflect monthly at a minimum and create a routine they will need to document their progress at the end of every month. A timeline for each CAS milestone gives students a good overview of how CAS will be carried out during the 18 months. I would suggest having information organized in sections, and providing tutorials and templates that students can use. A section comparing ‘what is CAS’ and ‘what is not CAS’ is extremely useful too.
Many thanks to Mutiara Moerdani and Felicia Chen for their valuable insight and advice!
You can find more CAS resources to help support your students here, and, of course, we are always happy to hear from you if there are topics related to CAS that you would like us to explore in the future!