Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Course Descriptions > Introduction to Paleontology

Introduction to Paleontology

Dr. Dale A. Springer

Bloomsburg University
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


This is an upper-level undergraduate course that introduces students to modern concepts and methods in Paleobiology using examples from various groups of organisms important in the fossil record. Field trips and laboratory work are an integral part of this course. This course counts as a Group C, Natural Sciences & Math General Education Requirements. Four hours of lecture per week. Prerequisite: 51.130, 51.131 or 50.211 or consent of the instructor.

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Paleontology
Resource Type: Course Information
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Paleontology
Course Size:


Course Context:

This is an upper-level course required for the B.S. geosciences degree and one of several courses that will satisfy a requirement for upper-level courses in several other tracks within the department. Labs are skills and concepts oriented, rather than taxon oriented. Prerequisites include Historical Geology, Historical Lab, Invertebrate Zoology, or permission of the instructor.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to understand how (primarily marine) ecosystems are structured and how they have changed temporally and geographically;

Students should be able to understand how fossilization processes change ecosystems:what kinds of information are lost, what information can we collect;

Students should be able to recognize common fossilizable taxa and major morphological features for each taxon;

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

Course structure and activities are designed to give students many opportunities to study fossil and recent specimens in the context of solving problems that are encountered by paleontologists. Some problems are posed by the instructor, some are suggested by students.

Skills Goals

critical thinking

problem solving

improving student understanding of the nature of science (O.K., this isn't really a 'skill,' but I consider this a major goal of any course I teach.)

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

Course structure and activities are designed to provide numerous opportunities for students: to evaluate the work of others (of paleontologists, as well as their peers); to learn to formulate hypotheses; and–individually and/or as teams–to design research plans that will lead to potential answers to questions posed.

Attitudinal Goals

helping students to become life-long learners who enjoy and pursue the process of discovery;

helping students trust their ability to do the thinking, and not simply accept a conclusion simply because it appears in a professional journal or is pronounced by an 'expert'

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

Course activities encourage students to express their ideas/hypotheses, and to be prepared to back up these ideas with evidence. Course activities also encourage students to review professional and public (e.g.,websites) materials with a critical eye. And I am using the term 'critical' here as a review characterized by careful evaluation and judgment of the information presented, not as 'looking for fault or errors.'


Assessment is by exam, in-class activities (includes lab work), and sometimes incorporating student selfnd/or peer evaluation.


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