code/creativity/culture curriculum design workshop

tl;dr in this workshop you’ll:
  1. break into groups
  2. be assigned a trio of code/creativity/culture topics
  3. design a real c/c/c studio assessment item based around those three topics (and present it to the group)
  4. write some marking criteria for your assessment item (and present them to the group)

Workshop overview


Is it possible to learn about algorithms through writing poetry about wealth inequality? How about exploring the issue of social media use via sculptures built using cybersecurity tools and concepts? Is it possible to design an assessment task which encourages deep technical work and honest cultural reflection, while still producing a genuinely interesting creative outcome?

This workshop brings together folks from all points of the code/creativity/culture compass to design a real assessment task for the c/c/c studio creative computing outreach program. In fact, it needs a diverse range of voices to work properly. So if you’ve got thoughts and ideas about CS/Engineering curriculum design, the arts, and life within the socio-technical assemblage of our present age, then come along and have your say!

This workshop is part of the CoDesign Culture Lab. If you’re coming to the culture lab and you’d like to be part of the workshop, get in touch 😊


  • 10:30: break (morning tea)

  • 11:00: present your assessment item spec to workshop
  • 11:30: group work session 2 (assessment criteria)
  • 12:00: present your assessment criteria to the workshop
  • 12:15: wrap-up

Group formation

Find your stickers

For this workshop it’s important that each group has representatives from each facet of the c/c/c triad. Look under your chair to find three stickers:

  • the red sticker is the code sticker—if you consider yourself a code person

  • the blue sticker is the creativity sticker—if you consider yourself a creativity person

  • the yellow sticker is the culture sticker—if you consider yourself a culture person

  • the purple sticker is for if you think that this whole “reducing one’s identity in such a multifaceted problem space down to just a few stickers” thing is total bollocks—your job is to be your group’s enfant terrible 😉

You can choose to have 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 stickers—it’s up to you.

Find your team-mates

Once you’ve attached your stickers prominently to your forehead (or wherever you decided to wear them) then you need to find three team-mates so that each group has four members.

The one requirement is that each group must have all of the stickers between them. So, as you mill about finding team-mates, ask one another

  1. why you chose to identify with the particular stickers you chose
  2. which sticker was the hardest to decide on, and why

Once you’ve found a team, assemble at one of the tables and await further instructions.

Session 1: writing an assessment spec

In his intro, we introduced the c/c/c studio idea and set the scene for the whole “code/creativity/culture” thing (spoiler: they’re all highly entangled). You’re now a curriculum designer for the c/c/c studio! Welcome aboard.

Design brief

Genius learns from nature, its own nature. Talent learns from art. Also, creativity and culture seem to be important. Olivia Wilde1

Your design brief for today: in your group, create an assessment2 task which teaches a particular code concept/tool by exploring a problem/challenge facing our3 culture through a particular creative process/medium.

The educational context for this assessment task is the c/c/c studio—a selective program for year 11 & 12 students. If you’re more familiar with a uni context, they’re probably not too dissimilar from first-year undergraduates.

In this group session your group needs to produce a (draft) document. I don’t want to be too dogmatic about the form and content—the whole point of this workshop is to throw out the rulebook—but here’s a example of the sorts of things that are usually important in an assessment item:

  • description: a high-level description of what the task is and what the students are required to deliver

  • background/motivation: a bit more background on the task, tools, problem domain, as well as any pre-requisite skills the students will need

  • learning outcomes: a list of learning outcomes for the assessment task (or which the task is designed to assess)

  • spec: a concise, specific description of what the students are required to produce, including any specific constraints or requirements on either the deliverable or the process

  • resources: a list of resources the students might find helpful in completing the task

  • faq: a list of (anticipated) questions the students might have about the assessment task

At the end of this session you get to present your assessment task to the wider workshop. So, your group will need to organise:

  • a scribe (either on-paper or on a laptop) to write the document
  • a presenter (or a creative group presentation strategy) for telling everyone about your amazing assessment task

If you want to work on paper there are paper templates floating around (let us know if you’d like one). If you’ve got a digital scribe, then there are electronic templates (markdown and MS Word).

One more thing to keep in mind: in the next group work session you’ll be writing a set of assessment criteria which will be used to assess the submissions for your assessment task. So you don’t have to worry about writing them down formally just yet, but keep that in mind as you design your assessment task.

Let’s spin the wheels!

You don’t get to pick the code concept/cultural problem/creative process triad which forms the basis for your assessment task. Instead, we’ll spin the code/creativity/culture wheels4 and let fate5 decide.

the code wheel

This wheel selects the tool/concept which the students need to leverage (and in doing so, understand) in their submission. This is deliberately broad—you can (and should) narrow it down in your assessment task. Don’t get hung up on the “code” moniker, think about it as a computing/computer science tool/concept more broadly.

Note: one other way to frame this is this is the skill/concept that you want the students to learn (perhaps surreptitiously) in doing the assessment task.

code wheel:

the creativity wheel

This wheel selects the creative medium through which the student will explore the problem.

creativity wheel:

the culture wheel

This wheel selects the problem/challenge facing our culture/society to explore (and perhaps comment on) through the work. Again, you might want to narrow it down to a particular angle on this problem, although it’s worth thinking about how to leave students to wrestle with what they think about the problem, not just picking a theme which implies that there’s only one “right approach”.

culture wheel:

assessment task goal:

learning about ____ by exploring ____ through ____

Things to consider as you design your assessment task

Now that you’ve spun the wheels, you might be thinking that they’ve still left you with a pretty broad scope—and you’d be right. Your group’s job is to narrow this down into a specific task which is tractable for your intended audience of students. It’s fine (good, even!) if you narrow it down a lot.

Some of your group members might have lots of experience designing assessment tasks, others may have never done it before (although I’m sure that everyone’s done one).

  • for the code and culture wheel results in particular, what are the key aspects or sub-problems that you want the students to engage with? what are some of the creative ways you can imagine to get those concepts across?

  • the Learning Outcomes are really important, and can act as a guide for the rest of the design task—don’t leave them till the last minute

  • what are the conventions of “assesment tasks”? how can you flaunt them?

  • how can you ensure that the students engage seriously with the code part of the problem? how can you make sure they actually build something, not just talk about stuff?

  • in plain language, what do you want a student to learn through the process of completing your assessment task? (that will help with coming up with some learning outcomes)

  • how might the concept/tool and the creative medium shape the responses to the problem? can you use this to your advantage in encouraging students to attain the learning outcomes?

  • will the outcome (what the students produce) be something completely new, or will it be a reimagination/repurposing of an existing technology, or speculating on the impact of an existing technology as it develops into the future?

  • how are you going to constrain the scope of your task so that it supports students from a wide range of backgrounds/abilities?

  • do you have any favourite resources or templates for designing an assessment task? a quick google turns up a few (e.g. this blog post from the Australian Computing Academy or this more general assessment design framework from UTS) but I’m sure you can find others as well

  • what’s the worst-case scenario you’d expect if you set your assessment task for a bunch of eager c/c/c studio students? how can you write the spec to minimise the chance of things going down this way?

  • it’s ok to use images, diagrams, YouTube clips, interactive widgets—the assessment task itself won’t be printed on paper, it’ll be hosted on the web

Session 2: articulating the assessment criteria

As much as it feels gross and reductionistic to boil a student’s mark down to a number, we need to mark the submissions. Your group’s second (and final) deliverable is a set of assessment criteria for the assessment task.

Again, you need to create a document which could be handed to a marker so that they could assess the submissions and give a mark & grade. Again, the exact format of this document is up to you. There are a few ways to do this:

  • a series of examples of what constitutes bad/good/excellent work—what would an outstanding submission look like? what would a borderline-acceptable (e.g. a bare pass) submission look like?

  • a set of criteria for each of the code/creativity/culture dimensions of the work, with descriptions of what bad/good/excellent work might look like

  • a full rubric (2x2 grid) with criteria along the rows, grades (e.g. fail, pass, credit, distinction, high distinction) down the columns and a description in each grid square

Things to consider as you design your assessment criteria

  • the problems (from the culture wheel) are not solvable through a single assessment task, so don’t make that the criteria—instead, you want students to explore & understand the problem, process & tool more deeply

  • how do your criteria support students who haven’t necessarily thought deeply about the “big questions” to do so? how do they encourage students who have thought about this stuff to go deeper?

Takeaway questions

  • Did the wheels (and the segments therein) provide enough structure for your assessment design exercise? Too much structure? If you were using them as a tool for assessment design in the future, how would you modify them?

  • After participating, are you more or less convinced of the utility of the creative arts in teaching the code concepts? Why?

  • What type of student would benefit the most from doing your assessment task? How are they similar/different from the students we see in our CS programs here in CECS?

  • If you were in charge of this workshop and had to deliver it again, what would you change?

Thanks so much for participating 😊 If your group wrote the assessment item on paper, can you hand it to Ben (or one of the other facilitators) before you leave ? If you did it electronically (e.g. using the markdown template) then can you email it to Ben?


Presenter bio

Dr Ben Swift is a Senior Lecturer in the ANU Research School of Computer Science (RSCS). As the leader of the code/creativity/culture (c/c/c) research group, Ben’s goal is to create spaces for talking about the way that code (software), creativity (especially the arts) and culture (life) intersect in the modern world. Ben’s research contributions range from traditional Computer Science (digital multimedia, web technologies and human-computer interaction) through to invited livecoding (live code-based music performance) performances and multimedia artwork installations.

In 2019 Ben was awarded one of the inaugural Reimagine Fellowships to develop the c/c/c studio, an ANU Extension outreach program which will teach computer science to pre-tertiary students through making art, music and other cool things with computers. The c/c/c studio will also provide a supportive community in which a new generation of people can learn, create, and share—unlocking the latent potential in students who never knew their diverse interests (especially in the arts & music) could be used in engineering and computing.


  1. obviously, this is fake, although Oscar Wilde said something similar, and I’m pretty sure he was Olivia Wilde’s uncle 

  2. you can think of it as an assignment, but that word has some baggage, so just think of it as a description of a thing which a student must submit which will be evaluated on whether it’s a good thing 

  3. Part of the challenge here is that we don’t live in a monoculture, at a local level (because filter bubbles), at a national level (because multiculturalism) and at a global level (because global village). Still, I’m using this word so the c/c/c schtick makes sense. 

  4. wheels powered by Winwheel.js by Douglas McKechie 

  5. well, the PRNG in your web browser, anyway 

github twitter vimeo graduation-cap rss envelope search vial coffee heart creative-commons creative-commons-by creative-commons-nc creative-commons-sa