Teach the Earth > Course Design > Course Goals/Syllabus Database > Mineralogy


David Mogk

Montana State University
University with graduate programs, primarily masters programs


Introduction to mineralogy includes the following topics: hand sample identification of rock forming minerals, including physical properties, occurrences, assemblages; principles of crystallography and crystal chemistry; introduction to optical mineralogy; introduction to modern analytical techniques, XRD and SEM/EDS; and an end-of-term research project using these techniques.

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


Course Context:

This is a sophomore-level course which is the first "core" course required of our geology majors. A full year of inorganic chemistry is a prerequisite. The class format has two 50 minute lectures, and 2 two-hour lab periods per week over a full 15 week semester. Although lectures and labs are scheduled, I increasingly attempt to use a "studio" format in which lab/lecture activities are integrated.

Course Goals:

- Identification of rock-forming minerals in hand sample
- Application of chemical principles to mineral/rock systems
- Introduction to the geoscience literature
- Observation, interpretation, application of theory, testing
- Use of multiple lines of evidence to solve a problem (hand sample, field, petrographic, XRD, SEM/EDS; This is accomplished through an end-of-term true research experience where students must identify and characterize mineral samples to solve a problem of real interest. The most recent example was a project on samples collected from the Golden Sunlight Mine to identify primary, ore, alteration, and environmentally significant minerals.

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

The course is set up according to the following principles: start with the concrete and work towards the abstract. We start by observing natural mineral samples and determining their physical properties, composition, occurrences as part of natural assemblages. Then, we look at the underlying theory as represented by crystallography and crystal chemistry. Finally, we begin to use analytical techniques including optical mineralogy, XRD, and SEM/EDS to further identify and test the composition and structures of minerals.

Skills Goals

- Observation, description, and interpretation skills
- Technical skills including use of the petrographic microscope, XRD, and SEM/EDS instruments
- Collaborative and cooperative learning in small groups.
- First exposure to accessing and reading the geologic literature.

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

All lab exercises are open-ended and encourage self exploration of minerals in hand sample and in natural occurrences. Problem sets are designed to reveal underlying principles, and in some cases, require information from geologic journal articles. Small group interactions are encouraged in all lab and problem-set activities.

Attitudinal Goals

- Demonstrating the importance of mineralogy in all sub-disciplines of the geosciences; making mineralogy relevant and important to the future success of the students.
- Developing confidence in the students about their ability to ask questions of Earth materials, and to have the tools available to solve these problems.

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

Lab activities and problem sets are designed to encourage inquiry and discovery using mineral samples, crystal models, and problem sets.


Weekly quizzes for mineral identification; problem sets; short writing assignments; final exam; and end-of-term research project that requires students to integrate field, hand sample, petrographic, XRD, and SEM/EDS analyses to solve a true research problem. The most recent project was a set of projects at the Golden Sunlight Mine where the students were charged to identify and characterize primary mineralogy of host rock, alteration minerals, ore minerals, and mineralogy related to recovery and environmental remediation.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 33kB Feb21 06)

Other Materials (Excel 26kB Feb21 06)
  • This course has supplemental information submitted as part of the InTeGrate Teaching the Methods of Geoscience workshop in June 2012.
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