CAS is simultaneously the best and the most irksome part of the IB. It is the best because it’s the only part of IB where you get to engage socially outside academics. You can learn new skills, work towards six pack abs or help someone out! But the most tricky part is to write about it. Most of my friends were nearly going to fail in CAS because they procrastinated their reflections for so long and didn’t know how to write them well. But, we’ll try to avoid this situation! That’s why in this article I am going to show you how I write my pre- and post- reflections.
Pre-reflection is the planning you do before starting an assignment. Normally you would make an outline for it: write the hypothesis of the assignment, determine your arguments and make a timeline on how to proceed on the writing. In pre-reflections you do exactly the same. You state:
- The aim of this experience
- The reason you chose this experience
- The preparations you did for this experience (timeline, materials, skills etc.)
- The possible challenges and how do you expect to overcome them
- What do you expect to learn from this experience? (Learning Outcomes, IB Learner Profile)
It seems like a lot, but usually a 200-word reflection is enough. Let me give you an example of my reflection on one of my personal projects, so you can see what a real reflection could look like!
Example 1: Pre-reflection
“The students I am assigned to and I will meet online once a week for this project. We will talk about their academic journey and the identity of our school and how they can fit into it. (the timeline/plan + aim)
I chose this project because I can relate to the students who are just starting high school and know nothing about it. I was confused and had a hard time adjusting to the school two years ago. I aim to make this process easier for the new students because I was in their position two years ago. (the reason the experience is chosen)
I expect to improve my communication skills through interacting with the students who are younger than me and improving my management skills by taking control of a small group and keeping the peace among the group to have efficient progress. I plan to show Strength & Growth on Initiative & Planning, Collaborative Skills, Commitment & Perseverance with this project. These will make me a better Communicator, Principled and Caring person. (what this experience will teach me)
I might have difficulties managing the small group and fully serving their needs. Being patient with the students may be a challenge for me too. But I am an outgoing person and can easily build relationships with others. These strengths of mine will help me throughout this process. (challenges & solutions)
Before I start this project I should be aware of the study plan which is prepared by the project leaders and be comfortable with the materials I am going to work on with the students. (preparations)”
This is a superficial example of what can be done in your first reflection. If I were you, I would go in depth about details specific to this experience and how the learning outcomes will be practiced with this experience. You can explain how you’ll improve each Learning Outcome you claimed to be practicing.
Also, when talking about the challenges you’ll face, it might be better to offer hypothetical problems and solutions instead of saying ‘‘I am … kind of person, so I’ll fix it.’’ This example emphasizes the five points you need to mention in your reflection clearly. So you can take it as your inspiration but more details are needed in addition to this.
Just after the summer break, you come to the school for the first time in months and you have the biggest case of the Mondays. You dream about the peeling red sunburn, licking runaway watermelon juice off your fingers, and all of a sudden your teacher breaks your imagination with an essay instruction to ‘‘tell us about your summer break.’’ Thankfully, the following can be used for coming up with an answer:
- Did you accomplish the goals you set in the pre reflection?
- If yes, how? What went well? What was the challenge? Did you overcome it? If yes, how? Or, add general important moments you want to recall.
- Did you meet the Learner Outcomes, and how did you do it?
- How did this experience change you personally? How did you feel while doing it? Do you regret a decision, would you change it if you had the chance?
I hear you saying, ‘‘These are not really steps, they are just more questions.’’ And you are right! There is no formula to post-reflections other than summarizing the event and reflecting on your decisions.
Example 2: Post-reflection
“Project X was an educational and successful project. After making 6 sessions with my prep students, I finished my part in this project. I met my goal of informing the students I mentor about various topics about high school such as the languages we learn, what to study on holidays etc. We documented their improvement with the feedback sheets we completed after our sessions. Within our session I definitely improved my communication skills, we broke that age barrier and talked like friends without any silence. I also met my goal of management skills because aside from communicating, I completed all the assignments we had to do in our session without any mistakes or absences. (succeeding and the methods)
My students were also motivated to continue the project, my group’s attendance was greater than some of the other groups. (complimenting yourself, because in 2022 we are all about self-care)
Creating a group dynamic and getting used to each other was a difficulty at first, but we managed to overcome that with time and being patient with each other. Sometimes I had difficulties keeping my students mood up and motivated but the more time we spent the more interested they got. (challenges & solutions)
We created a friendly and safe environment where I felt comfortable and we learnt from each other. (Feelings)
What I learnt from this experience was to not judge someone from their age because my students definitely proved me wrong with their matureness. (Learning)
I feel like this experiment made me a better Communicator, Principled and Caring person. (IB Learner Profile)”
Adding a summary of one of the teaching sessions and giving details about the context of the lectures would make this reflection perfect. But it does show how this person felt during this experience quite well, they felt comfortable and eliminated their prejudice against younger students. You don’t have to learn something ‘‘dramatic’’ like this example but with more detail and ‘‘show not tell,’’ I’m sure you’ll have no problem with it. CAS is one of the rare assignments in IB where you have a room for subjectivity. I advise you to use it, and be creative as possible while finding out CAS activities and writing about it. Good luck!