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July 8, 2024

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here

An important component of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program gets updated, bringing it more inline with new technologies and increasing demands for global social responsibility.

Service to the community has long been a major part of a Notre Dame Prep student's experience, no matter the age.

One of the core components of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which aims to prepare students for success in higher education and to be more active participants in a global society, is creativity, action, service, or CAS. Creativity, action, service involves students in a range of activities alongside their academic studies throughout the prestigious Diploma Program. 

Creativity encourages students to engage in the arts and creative thinking. Action, a.k.a. "activity," seeks to develop a healthy lifestyle through physical activity. Service with the community offers a vehicle for new learning with academic value. The three strands of CAS enhance each student's personal and interpersonal development through experiential learning and enable journeys of self-discovery.

However, according to a report released in 2011 by the IB, CAS in the new century required a reassessment of its original purpose.

In Discussion Document for the Curriculum Review of Creativity, Action, Service, Catherine Elliott, Cheryl Keegan and Cathryn Berger Kaye say that CAS learning "is a challenge only in that it requires that school communities adapt to new processes."

Further, the authors stated that "creativity involving new technologies, provided it can be traced from its original concept to execution, will still be creativity. Action may be better documented and monitored with advances in equipment and technology. 

"The real difference we suspect will come through changing attitudes toward service," said the authors. "As our global community takes on more social responsibility for inequalities and seeks to redress them, CAS students will hopefully find more willing partners to aid their service efforts. In the future, when IB students teach less-privileged groups, they will teach new technologies, which will help toward more efficient communications and extend employment chances."

Action to activity

Kyle Lilek, a longtime member of Notre Dame Prep's English department, teaches the IB Theory of Knowledge course. He says the school's relationship with CAS also continues to evolve.

"The purpose of CAS for the IB program is to ensure students approach their education more holistically, and not purely academic," he said. "In short, 'creativity' has product or performance, 'activity' has a goal that students work to achieve, and 'service' involves working toward the betterment of a community."

He believes that the biggest change for CAS in the last several years was the shift from the "A" in CAS that stands for "action" to the current word "activity," therefore better emphasizing the goal aspect of "activity."

"As far as the 'service' element, NDP always has emphasized service with our students, which is why my goal in CAS has been to get students to recognize those elements in their life which already fall under the CAS umbrella," Lilek said. "Students are encouraged by both IB and NDP to look at the various communities both local and beyond to the difference they can make, and then act on that difference in an achievable manner. A lot of my job for 'service,' and essentially for all of CAS, is to help students recognize and plan their various ideas around CAS."

Longer-term community projects 

In their report, Elliott, Keegan and Kaye added that the 1996 and 2001 CAS guides (Creativity, action, service guide 1996, 2001) recommended the inclusion of longer-term community projects, combining two or more aspects of CAS, and that they remain to this day.

"Furthering the professional nature of monitoring CAS," they said, "students’ CAS studies were 'assessed' on five performance criteria: personal achievement, skills, personal qualities, interpersonal qualities, and global awareness. 

"Guiding questions to assist reflection were provided in both CAS guides. Students were required to write summative reflections on all their activities and a final 'essay' that would encapsulate their CAS experience. These forms supplied the evidence for CAS and could become part of the students’ curricula vitae after the examination period was completed. 

"The 2008 CAS guide has more recently changed the assessment focus, rather than the nature of CAS itself. Focusing on quality rather than on quantity, students are required to demonstrate eight learning outcomes, similar to the performance criteria but more clearly articulated. In addition, the CAS guide stipulates the need for a minimum of three interviews during the course, and evidence that each learning outcome has been achieved. There is now also a requirement for sustained collaborative activities involving two or more aspects of CAS. 

"These refinements in CAS over the course of the IB history are updated expressions and practical requirements for best practice involving a part of the Diploma Program that attempts to educate the whole person. CAS is more defined, broader in its scope, and more carefully monitored than the founders envisaged, as is all educational practice. However, in essence, it is the element of the program that has values at its center and that asks students to change and develop their perceptions and compassion toward inclusion and not exclusion of 'other.' This is as important today as it was at the IB’s inception." 

'Monies well spent'

The authors ultimately concluded that modern times call for changes to how service impacts the Diploma Program student. 

"Increasing global interconnectedness means that the 21st-century requires a gradual redefining of the developed and developing world’s responsibilities and creating social conscience for people and the environment. The implications for CAS 'service' resulting from these shifts in thinking are vast. More opportunities will present themselves for students looking to make meaningful connections within their school outreach programs, within their greater communities, and globally. As corporate parents become more involved in social responsibility and awareness, as citizens join more 'Earthwatch'-type online organizations, and more adults become participants in micro-finance from their own homes, students and schools will also expand their notions of service. 

New technologies will allow quicker and more accurate monitoring of outcomes in service organizations, giving CAS students more confidence that their fundraising and general efforts are being well used. 'Service in CAS must be cognizant of these changes in its basic expectations and in dealing with the organizations it serves; increasingly, it will be able to demand demonstrable outcomes and evidence of monies well spent. With the change in global perspectives and the recognition of the rights of clients, individuals are afforded more dignity than previously. CAS students must set out with the idea of partner rather than patron."

More on the CAS report is here.

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School
"At Notre Dame Prep, we inspire our students to become the best versions of themselves. We challenge them through an experience of academic excellence, focused on active, project-based learning. We invite them to explore a world of opportunities beyond the classroom. We guide them as they grow in spirituality within a community strong in its Catholic and Marist identity."

Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDP is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit the school’s home page at