Course Design > Course Goals/Syllabus Database > Introduction to Petrology

Introduction to Petrology

Author Profile
Elizabeth Johnson

James Madison University
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


Igneous and metamorphic processes explained using crystallization theory, phase diagrams, thermodynamics and geochemistry; laboratory study of rocks, their chemical and mineralogical signatures, and their geologic origins.

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
Resource Type: Course Information:Goals/Syllabi
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Petrology
Course Type: Upper Level:Petrology
Course Size:


Course Context:

This is a course for undergraduate majors in the BS program. Prerequisites are mineralogy and chemistry. The class has a lecture and lab component, and meets for two 2hr, 15min-long blocks per week. There is a 2-day required field trip plus shorter optional field trips.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to

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

The course is structured around case studies. I assess the course with labs (traditional and jigsaw-type group work), quizzes, and tests. I am new to teaching this course, and I found that a traditional grading scheme has made students feel more comfortable with a completely new syllabus and instructor. In particular, biweekly quizzes are a motivator for students to study and/or read, and gives students examples of questions for the short-answer section of the tests.

I would like to move to something more effective / efficient, especially with grading labs. I find the labs to be tedious to grade, and it is difficult to effectively give students feedback for these larger assignments.

Skills Goals

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

The labs provide students with the opportunity to make observations of complicated rock textures and produce hypotheses to tie these textures to regional geology or tectonics. Right now, I include interpretation as part of the petrographic description worksheet, and I grade these along with mineral and texture ID.

Attitudinal Goals

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

I try to address a concept (ie, fractional crystallization) with one or two simple models (ie, fractional crystallization, or Bowen's reaction series), then apply this to a real system (ie, the Bushveld igneous complex). Labs are a combination of observations of hand samples and thin sections, plus thought questions based on the data they collect in the lab (ie., does the plagioclase composition in our samples follow the predicted trends from the base to top of the Bushveld)?


Graded lab assignments, quizzes, and tests.


Syllabus: Introduction to Petrology (Acrobat (PDF) 210kB Mar15 11)

See more Course Goals/Syllabus Database »