Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Course Descriptions > Physical Geology

Physical Geology

Juan Lorenzo
Louisiana State University


This course provides a comprehensive overview of physical geology for non-majors as well as potential majors. About 1% of students who take this course will become majors in earth science.

Course URL: http://www.geol.lsu.edu/jlorenzo/PhysicalGeology_S2007/Syllabus.1001_07.html
Course Type:
Entry Level:Physical Geology Entry Level

Course Size:
greater than 150

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is an introductory course serving many non-science majors as their science requirement. Typically over 75% of the students have no science background but for many of our majors this is the initial geoscience course that stirs their latent interest in the geosciences.

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 Earth Science course covers standard physical geology course material such as basic mineralogy, petrology, surface processes, geophysics, plate tectonics and some earth history. Special emphasis is given to establish societal relevance of each of these topics.

Course Goals:

An important aim in this course is that my students will emerge very much aware of the great relevance the geosciences have in shaping national policies, world history and at the very least local environmental decisions.

Course Features:

Because of the extra-large classes for this course, web-based self-paced quizzes are offered in advance for additional credit to help prepare students for the coming classes. Each lecture attempts to involve some student group discussion.

Course Philosophy:

My personal teaching style is more problem-driven than I can implement in a large classroom environment and with available resources of time and teaching assistants.


I collect feedback informally by interacting with former students, assessing student evaluation forms, and informal exit interviews of available students in my classes.

Teaching Materials:

Complete Course Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 145kB Nov18 08)

References and Notes:

Course text: Understanding Earth by Grotzinger, Jordan, Press and Siever
I use this text because of its emphasis on plate tectonics and intellectual thoroughness.
I also assign online general articles.

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