Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Course Descriptions > Introduction to Geology

Introduction to Geology

Kyle Fredrick
, California University of Pennsylvania


Introduction to Geology is a survey of the major topics within the geology discipline. There is a strong emphasis on solid earth principles and earth materials during the first half of the semester while the second half is predominantly focused on surficial processes, especially with regard to erosional/depositional mechanisms.

Course Type:
Entry Level Physical Geology

Course Size:

Course Format:
Students enroll in one course that includes both lecture and lab. The lecture and the lab are both taught by the professor.

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This course satisfies a general education requirement for the natural sciences for non-majors. It is also the fundamental starting point for all geology, environmental earth science, and secondary education - earth and space science majors. Time is divided 3-2 with regard to lecture-lab, and is considered a 4-credit hour course (where a standard non-lab course is 3 credit hours).

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? no

If students take a "non-majors" course, and then decide to become a major, do they have to go back and take an additional introductory course? no

Course Content:

The Introduction to Geology focuses primarily on solid earth geology and surficial processes. It includes a lecture format, which is supported by weekly lab exercises. Labs are historically indoor, conventional exercises. However, as the program grows, more outdoor experiences will be incorporated. Over the course of the semester emphasis is placed on building up the students' knowledge and confidence. Topics are set up sequentially for students to understand those foundational principles such as plate tectonics and fluid dynamics. After mastering these larger concepts, they move on to secondary topics, for example: earthquakes, streams, or glaciers.

Course Goals:

Following participation in the Introduction to Geology course, students should be able to understand and use various data formats such as maps and quantitative data, to understand the processes associated with those systems. They are expected to develop an appreciation for their surroundings through exposure to and education of Earth systems and recognize the role that geology plays in their everyday lives.

Course Features:

The course is designed with weekly assignments and self-guided quizzes to reinforce topics covered. The semester is divided into four units, each culminating in an exam. Lab exercises are used to present concepts that are difficult to convey in a lecture format, as well as those types of data and tools they may be exposed to in their everyday lives.

Course Philosophy:

The course is designed based on my own introduction into Geology. It is patterned after a conventional lecture/lab style and uses a popular textbook as a guideline for topics and information. I create my own lecture materials using primarily pictures and demonstrations to convey the materials. The power-point format of the lectures allows me the freedom to move around the room and engage students individually. I try to build on their own life experiences to emphasize that geology is a tangible, approachable discipline. At the introductory level, I have found that students appreciate the stable format for taking notes and they feed off of the enthusiasm that I can generate from bringing extensive visual aids into the classroom.


Students are graded throughout the course on assignments, labs, and exams. In addition, they complete a pre-test on the first day and a post-test in place of a final examination.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 117kB May7 08)

Teaching Materials:

See an activity sheet for a lab on topographic maps

References and Notes:

Understanding Earth (5th Edition), Grotzinger and Jordan
It was less expensive than competitors and new editions come out less frequently. I also find that the order in which they cover topics fits better with my preferences.

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