On the Cutting Edge - Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
Teaching Introductory Geoscience Courses in the 21st Century
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The Earth from space

Teaching Introductory Geoscience Courses

Do you recall your first geoscience course? For many geoscience teachers, it was this first taste of plate tectonics, landforms, fossils or oceanography that suddenly made us realize we had found our calling. We hope that some of today's new students who experience their first earth science courses will become inspired just like we did. Yet some students take a 100-level geology course because it seems to be the least-daunting way through their college's science requirement. Thus, faculty of introductory courses have a big job on their hands, managing a wide range of students, taking them through the basics of earth science, and hopefully imparting some inspiration along the way.

This web module is for those who teach introductory earth science courses. Here you will find ideas for designing a new course, spicing up an existing course design, or adding innovative activities or teaching methods.

Designing an Introductory Course

To begin designing an Introductory Geoscience Course, we recommend combing through the general course design and learning goals pages. These help you articulate your course constraints and overarching goals. The following resources can then help you fulfill your teaching goals.

Pedagogical Approaches to Addressing Challenges in Introductory Geology

Resource Collections

  • Course Description collection of introductory-level geoscience courses, spanning a host of geoscience topics. These descriptions include learning goals, syllabi, and supporting information. See how your colleagues organize their Introductory courses.
  • Teaching Activities include classroom activities, laboratory exercises, problem sets and more. These are aimed at intro-level audiences. If you use one of these activities, we also encourage you to provide an activity review.
  • Read the essays submitted by participants in the 2014 Getting the Most out of Your Intro Courses workshop. Participants were asked to discuss how their introductory courses serve their students, their department, and their institution, specifically considering what features of their courses are targeted at serving those different audiences and needs, and how they know those features are working.
  • Get started designing field trips to help your students see geoscience topics first-hand, an excellent way to "hook" introductory students. View activities designed for the field, example field experiences, additional resources, and important information on safety.
  • Popular books written mostly by non-geologists reviewing geoscience topics in an accessible manner.

Special Topics

  • Misconceptions often held by intro-level students. Prepare yourself to discuss these topics (and be sure to arm your students with facts).


Get Involved

Join the Teaching Introductory Courses Email List or the Teaching Introductory Courses discussion board.

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