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


Jordan Clayton

Georgia State University
University with graduate programs, primarily masters programs


The focus for this class is on process geomorphology. The process-oriented approach is nicely defined by Ritter et al. (2002) as pertaining to the following concepts: the equilibrium between form and process, the interaction of forces, resistances, and thresholds, and the overlap of multiple processes and relevant timescales. These concepts will provide the backdrop for our discussion of the following main course topics: weathering and mass movement, drainage basin and fluvial processes, tectonism at the earth surface, eolian processes, glacial landforms and glaciology, and processes related to periglacial, karst, and coastal landforms. We also spend some time discussing the history of geomorphology, landscape evolution models, and theories of landscape change.

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

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-division course with prerequisites in introductory geology or physical geography. We meet for 3 hours per week and for at least one required field trip.

Course Goals:

(1) Students should be able to identify key physical characteristics of landforms and landscapes. This means that students should be able to identify key geomorphic landforms either in the field, from photographs, or from a description.
(2) Students should be able to understand the processes, both natural and anthropogenic, that drive geomorphic change. This means that for each of the landforms identified in goal #1, students should be able to evaluate the processes required to generate that form.
(3) Students should be able to perform some introductory field skills related to fieldwork in geomorphology. Specifically, that entails surveying, sediment sampling, bankfull channel identification, and flow measurement.
(4) Students should be able to perform computer analysis techniques that can be used to solve geomorphic problems, such as using Excel spreadsheets and graphing, and visualization and analysis via Google Earth.

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

Most of these goals are assessed from the class exercises. Students are given exercises for work outside of normal class hours, and are asked to follow the steps and to critically evaluate their findings.

Skills Goals

Quantitative skills are developed by asking students to calculate slopes, denudation rates, glacial mass balance, bankfull Shields stress, etc in exercises. Exams use equations mainly in a conceptual way, meaning that students are required to understand what the equation parameters mean and how they might vary.

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

(see above)

Attitudinal Goals

Increasing student excitement / personal wonder about learning about the Earth is a definite goal.

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

This goal is (hopefull) accomplished by incorporating recent material and research (including online videos or experimental work), showing inspiring photos of key landforms and processes, attempting to energize students based on my own enthusiasm, and covering a wide breadth of subject matter.


Assessment is based on 3 exams, class exercises (both in-class, non-graded and out-of-class, graded), participation and effort in class, and a research paper and presentation for graduate students.


Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 112kB May2 08)

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