Cutting Edge > Introductory Courses > Virtual Workshop 2014 > Course Descriptions > Intro to Geology, and Physical Geology

Intro to Geology, and Physical Geology

Michael Guebert,
Taylor University-Upland
Author Profile


A general introduction to the Earth's internal and external physical, dynamic systems. Topics include occurrence and formation of minerals and rocks, processes that shape the earth's surface, and the internal structure and dynamics that lead to plate tectonics and crustal deformation. Special emphasis is place on the environmental aspects of humans' interaction with the Earth.

Course Type:
Entry Level:Physical Geology

Course Size:

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

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

This is an introductory course for Environmental Science majors but is about 75% by non-science majors of many types and all classe (F-Sr) for general education requirements. Meets for 2 hours of lecture and 2 hours of lab (for three credits) or three hours of lab (4 credits).

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses?
No. We offer two introductory geology courses, one for 3credits and one for 4 credits. The courses run concurrently for lectures, the 4credit course (for science majors) has a separate lab for an additional hour in length.

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?

Course Content:

The courses cover basic physical geology: earth materials, surface process, plate tectonics. Lecture include brief current geologic events, and intructor emphasis on environmental applications. Course included one "field trip" to a natural history museum and paleo lab, and one real field trip to geologic exposures and natural features in a state park.

Course Goals:

The "big ideas" of the course are listed here. Specific content objectives are provided for each chapter.
  1. Gain an appreciation for the awe, majesty, and wonder the Earth.
  2. Understand the properties, processes and formative history of Earth through text, images, maps, laboratory and field.
  3. Develop skills of scientific literacy and inquiry regarding common and unique events of geologic interest.
  4. Appreciate the importance and prevalence of geology around us, especially in locations of personal interest.
  5. Increase awareness of the key roles of geologists in science and society, and the current opportunities for students.
  6. Refine a perspective on issues and duty relating natural (especially geological) sciences and the Christian faith, such as: origins, age of the Earth, evolution, and environmental stewardship.
What are the main features of the course that help students achieve these goals?
Beside typcial quizzes, exams, lab assignments, and field trip reports, students create a "hometown geology" poster of geologic history, resources and/or hazards of a "favorite" place, presented as a poster session during the final lab period.Students also engage in a two-week sequence of lecture, reading, video/discussion, and writing assignment on the age of Earth.


Weekly quizzes. Four exams (multiple-choise and short answer), weekly lab assignments, field trip reports, hometown geology poster, and Geology and Genesis paper.


240-241 Syllabus Spring 2014 (Acrobat (PDF) 460kB Feb28 14)

Teaching Materials:

Essentials of Geology, Lutgens and Tarbuck
It was the book pre-selected for me at my first teaching positio. AND my wife took college geology courses from the authors who inspired her to encourage me to take a geology course (I did and changed my major.)

AGI, NAGT Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology, Ed by Busch
Professional organization endorsement, multiple authors. AT the time the course was developed, it met the need very well.

References and Notes:

Other Supporting Materials:
Assignment for Hometown Geology poster (Acrobat (PDF) 41kB Feb28 14)