CAS activities are one of the most enjoyable parts of the IB, they can be a source of distraction from the stress of academics. However, most of the time, reflections can seem like a burden and it can be difficult to know where to start. The subject of CAS is based on the 7 learning outcomes. Every activity and project should result in the achievement of one or more of these learning outcomes. The IB considers them as the base on which you should build your CAS portfolio, so it may be useful to keep them in mind when doing your reflections.
1. Identify own strengths and develop areas for growth
This focuses on self-discovery, and it requires you to reflect on your growth as an individual. Be sure to mention the learnings you gained from your CAS activities, and emphasize the strengths and areas of opportunities you identified in your role during the activity.
I recommend that you fit your interests and talents to all of your activities. For example, you like to write, maybe you could start a literature club. Or, if you have design abilities, you can create promotional content or manage the social media of a student club.
2. Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process
This learning outcome aims to push the student out of their comfort zone. Pay special attention to the skills you have acquired and the new experiences you had through your project or activity. Make sure to mention any challenges and how you pushed through them.
Try some unfamiliar activities or set greater goals of an already existing activity. For example, if you like to jog as a form of exercise, maybe try doing a 5k or 10k race. This will highlight your growth from the process from identifying a challenging goal to achieving your final objective.
3. Demonstrate how to initiate and plan a CAS experience
The third learning outcome does not center as much on the student’s reflection. Rather, it evaluates the order and structure of the activities they have carried out. Try to keep your notes as organized as possible and divide them by the stages you went through to plan and, ultimately, accomplish the final result.
For example, document long-term projects such as starting a club, conducting a series of community-involved activities, or conferences about global issues. Long-term projects such as these tend to have more planning involved during the process.
4. Show commitment to, and perseverance in, CAS experiences
In this learning outcome, highlight your commitment and engagement in both long-term projects and shorter activities. This does not mean that you need to be involved in a lot of activities, just show that you are active and committed to the ones you are participating in at the moment.
One of the main ways to show your commitment is by maintaining a regular attendance and making constant contributions to whatever activity you have chosen. Try to always undertake an active role where you can exercise responsibility and problem-solving.
5. Demonstrate the skills and recognize the benefits of working collaboratively
This outcome is achieved when participating in team activities. Maintain a balance between the individual and collaborative projects, since one of the benefits of CAS is to get to know other people and learn from them. Don’t be afraid to talk about conflict if your group didn’t work well together, as an important aspect you should also demonstrate reflection and self-awareness.
Volunteer groups, sports teams, and music bands are some great activities to highlight your role within a group and demonstrate the impact others had in the development of your skills.
6. Demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance
Pick one global issue you are passionate about and try to develop a CAS activity around it. This is a great way to demonstrate awareness of global problems and take action on them. The IB will appreciate your initiative and will perceive you as an individual that cares for their community, a characteristic that CAS aims to develop in you.
An effective way to achieve this is by directing your projects towards one of the SDGs of the UN. For example, if you start an educational campaign for children, this would address goal 4 Quality Education.
7. Recognize and consider the ethics of choices and actions
You must process and acknowledge the effects your CAS project or activity may have on others. It’s as simple as the phrase “think of the consequences of your actions”. Recognize any ethical issues that may come through the project, as well as ethical decisions you had to make.
This learning outcome can be applicable to almost every CAS activity. For illustration, if you are involved in sports, you can focus a part of your reflection on the ethical guidelines that this field carries and the role they play in preserving a “clean” game, maintaining the integrity of the sport, and fostering sportsmanship.
I know these learning outcomes may seem like a lot to tackle in CAS, but if you have a clearer view of the objectives of the subject, you are more likely to know how to structure a well-done reflection of your activities. Remember, your reflection doesn’t have to show that you planned and executed perfect activities. Rather, CAS aims to show that you have a growth mindset, are self-aware, and can learn from your experiences—hence the term “learning outcomes”!