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Practical Mineralogy

Elizabeth Catlos

Oklahoma State University
University with graduate programs, primarily masters programs


Hand-specimen identification of minerals. Society's dependence on and utilization of mineral resources. Field trips required. (From the course catalog)

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Mineralogy
Resource Type: Course Information, Goals/Syllabi
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Mineralogy
Course Type: Upper Level:Mineralogy
Topics: Solid Earth:Mineralogy
Course Size:


Course Context:

This is one of the first courses that our Geology majors take as a requirement. The prerequisites are introductory chemistry and/or geology. The course has a 3-hour lab and a required one-day field trip.

Course Goals:

Higher order skills:
Students should be able to analyze mineralogical-related data, predict what minerals should be stable and likely to be found in a variety of environments (sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic), synthesize information regarding specific minerals, and interpret actual scientific data regarding minerals.
I DO emphasize lower order skills in this class as well:
E.g., they should be able to recognize minerals that they will likely encounter in the field by identifying and using mineral properties.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The class consists of the traditional 3 1-hour lectures and 1 3-hour lab. Some of the labs involve field trips to on-campus laboratories that generate data (Crystal Growth Lab, Electron Microprobe, and XRD labs), which allow the students the opportunity to see scientists working with minerals to solve important problems. Some labs involve computer skills, in which the students input and analyze actual data. The course includes weekly homeworks and a lab final, which are designed to assess student learning.

Skills Goals

Visual communication
Oral communciation

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Nearing the end of the class, the students assemble and present a poster about an unusual mineral that is assigned during the first lecture. Over the course of the semester, they have used library and internet resources to find information about the mineral by completing weekly homework assignments. By the end of the semester, they compile this information in a poster form using PowerPoint. They then write a one paragraph abstract (compiled in an abstracts volume), and give a timed presentation about what they found about the mineral. The lab class period and the last week of lecture is dedicated to poster presentations.

Attitudinal Goals

Building students' confidence in geology
Improving students' excitement about Earth Science
Improving the students' perspective about the importance of mineralogy

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

We take a field trip to our local jewelry store so the students receive a perspective about the importance of minerals in an economic context. I encourage the students who have mineral collections to display them in our cabinets. Student posters are displayed in the department. The best samples collected on the field trip are displayed in the department. I nominate the student with the highest grade for the Mineralogical Society of America Undergraduate Award. The labs are designed to encourage the students to work together to solve the problems.


The course includes weekly homeworks, three short answer exams, and one lab exam. I encourage participation in lecture and lab so there is open communication about what is understood (or not). We have weekly TA meetings and TAs are required to attend lecture, so that their input is received as well.


Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 138kB Sep15 05)

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