Today I had a question asking what role the learning outcomes play in the CAS programme at CDNIS compared with the significance of the hours. Below is my reply, which I hope highlights the importance of the learning outcomes, and the learning that occurs following meaningful reflections.
“At CDNIS it is up to the student to decide whether to count an activity as part of their CAS programme. If they feel it enables them to meet one of the eight learning outcomes then they can include it. Last year we recorded interviews between the student, CAS Coordinator, and some CAS Advisor’s where the student talked about their CAS programme and which activities helped them achieve the eight learning outcomes. I remember many of the students talking about the more meaningful activities, but certainly not all of them. I remember being surprised at some of the activities they chose to talk about. Particularly which ones were a new challenge to them, and which ones they persevered with. Everyone was different. It’s not really about the activities they do for CAS (although quality is good), or the time they spend on them, but rather the learning following their reflections on their involvement in the activities.
At the end of the two years the students need to complete 150 hours which equates to about 3.5 hours a week with a balance between the three categories. We make a note of the amount of time a student spends on CAS. We don’t count the hours, rather the student estimates how much time they committed to an activity. At the end of the two years they need to have spent the equivalent of one Standard Level IB course, 150 hours, on CAS. More important than the hours, it is the activity and the reflection on their learning that is important”.
“Reflecting over the last two years, I’m now much more active, not only in sports, but also in terms of community service.” So says one Grade 12 student who has come to the official end to his Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) programme. I hope though that, this isn’t the end of this particular student’s CAS involvement, but only one stage in an active life of giving back to the community that has given him so much.
Each student’s CAS programme is unique and the level of learning from it will vary from one individual to the next. Much depends on the student’s affinities and the type of activities the student chooses to be involved with. All students should find activities: that present a new challenge to them; that develop new skills; and that engage them in issues of global importance, to name a few of the expected learning outcomes that now play a critical role in CAS. The depth of learning through their involvement is evident in their reflective journal entries.
For example, the activity “Volunteering at St. Barnabas” is brought more to
life when reading her journal entry. “I never thought that I would talk to a homeless person on the street, but this activity has broadened my horizons and now I’m proud to say that I’ve done so. Because of CAS, I needed to find a place to work at in order to get service hours. That was when my friends and I came across a church run homeless shelter called the St. Barnabas’ Society Home. The supervisors told us we should learn to understand the lives of the homeless first, so we met up with a friend of the supervisors, “Ah Sing”, a homeless man who has lived on a bench in the park for over 15 years. I didn’t really want to talk to him at first, but after listening to him, my views about him changed. He was a very nice, genuine man. After talking for half an hour, we gave him a couple of sandwiches that we had brought along with us and said our goodbyes.”
To sum up in the words of another graduating student: “The best things about CAS is not only the activities we are forced to do but also the element of reflection. They add to the whole process. Without the reflections we might never think about all these implications in what we’ve learned. Even though we might be reluctant to write them it does force us to actively reflect on what we are doing.”