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How does CAS impact students, educators and life beyond IB?

If you’ve heard of the IB Diploma Programme (DP), you might also have heard of CAS*, one of the cornerstones of the programme. If you haven’t, before we get to the research, here’s a mini introduction.

What is CAS?

All DP students participate in CAS, as part of the unique DP learner experience. CAS involves students in a range of activities, such as artistic expression, sports and community service, to accompany and support academic studies.

So, now to the research. What do students, teachers, and alumni think about CAS and its perceived outcomes?

Researchers at the University of Bath have investigated the impact of CAS through the perceptions of those involved in the programme, past, and present. Surveys were collected from nearly 8,000 students, almost 500 CAS Coordinators and more than 900 DP alumni across the world.

What’s the verdict?

CAS was not something I really appreciated until much later – after uni[versity], and well into professional life. From where I stand now, it was incredibly valuable.  ̶  DP alumni

  • Overall perceptions: CAS contributes to changes in DP students in terms of their personal dispositions, behaviour, and interpersonal relationships. In particular, coordinators, students and alumni believed that CAS helps students to become better at “taking on new challenges,” “learning to persevere” and “developing better interpersonal skills.”
  • Perceptions of CAS as challenging but rewarding: Students perceive CAS to be a challenging element within a challenging programme, but also agree it is rewarding. Students identify “service” as the most difficult of the three strands (85% agreement) but also rated this as the most rewarding (see figure 1).


  • Attributes and skills developed through CAS
    • With regard to IB Learner Profile attributes, CAS seemed to have the least impact on the development of the “inquirer” attribute, and the greatest impact on the development of the “communicator” attribute.
    • Both alumni and current DP students identify the same four attributes as having been developed by CAS: they have become more “communicative,” “willing to accept new roles,” “willing to accept new challenges,” and “collaborative.”

Any good practice tips for implementing CAS?

  • Coordinators in this study suggested that a successful CAS programme depends on identifying CAS activities that students consider to be both meaningful and enjoyable.
  • Consistently, two variables were found to be important for successful CAS implementation: students perceiving CAS as a valuable use of their time and goal setting before beginning CAS activities.
  • Students identified five factors as supporting a successful CAS experience.
    1. Variety: Students’ activities are varied
    2. Challenge: CAS helps students to push themselves
    3. Self-knowledge: CAS results in students learning new things about themselves
    4. New interests: CAS leads to new passions and interests
    5. Reflections: Meaningful and flexible reflections help students to make sense of their experiences

Want to learn more?

Read the Research Snapshot (two-page overview); the Research Summary (summary of the study’s main findings) or the Full Report by the researchers.

*The ‘activity’ component of CAS was formerly named ‘action.’ In the research study discussed in this post, vocabulary was used from the 2008 Creativity, action, service guide—creativity, action, service—is used to reflect the language of the stakeholders at the time the study was undertaken.

  • John Cannings

    A very Interesting report, especially highlighting alumni’ perceptions of the benefits of doing CAS being long lasting and in many cases transformative. It also highlighted the importance of CAS in developing social skills-so vital in whatever field they enter.
    The points that were made about what made a CAS experience worthwhile for students were really excellent. Two of these stood out for me that
    students had clear goals to start with and they enjoyed the experience.
    A couple of concerns that do not surprise is where students see CAS distracting from precious study time-clearly a reflection of a school focus just on results and not on the wider educational values of CAS. The other major concern was about the way that many schools still carry out reflections-in writing.
    Well done to Mary Hayden, Jeff Thompson and team from Bath for this thorough piece of research!

  • ERV Gabon

    This report is very interesting and enables parents and students to have a better understanding of the IB DP and its components.

  • Sue Morrell Stewart

    Thanks – an interesting report. Especially how students find the service component the most challenging. That is my feeling and it is so difficult to find service activities that they are going to enjoy and be motivated about. Really needs a change in mind-set which Im trying to do in MYP through more Character Education in our Life Skills classes but would appreciate any other suggestions or ideas?

  • Kate Taverner

    Many thanks to all for your comments and insights! It’s great to hear your perspectives on this critical component of the DP, and glad that you found the study useful and interesting.
    Sue, that’s a good question. I’m not sure I have any research that addresses it specifically. Might be a good one for further discussion within your school or IB association. Thanks for sharing!
    (comment posted on behalf of Emily, our IB Research Communications Manager)