Cutting Edge > Sedimentary Geology > Learning Goals

Example Learning Goals for Undergraduate Courses in Sedimentary Geology

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch, photo courtesy USGS.

What are we trying to accomplish in a sedimentary geology course for majors beyond exposing them to a body of knowledge and providing them with grades on their transcripts? What do we want students to be able to do when they are finished with the course? What value have we added to their future abilities in the field of sedimentary geology as a result of having taken the course? Answering this question is crucial, because a course should be designed not merely to expose students to information, tell them about topics, and show them concepts. Rather, a course should give students first hand experience in what we want them to be able to do when they are done with our courses.

We asked the 51 participants of the workshop Teaching Sedimentary Geology in the 21st Century to answer the question, "What do I want my students to be able to do when they are done with my undergraduate sedimentary geology course?" We also asked the same question of four panelists, Gary Colgan (CH2M HILL), Tim Carr (Kansas Geological Survey), Elana Leithold (North Carolina State University), and J. Frederick Sarg (William M. Cobb & Associates). We have grouped reponses to the question by broad content area in the list below.

If you are interested in ideas for taking goals such as those below and designing a course to help students achieve those goals, go to Choosing Content to Achieve Course Goals and Developing a Course Plan in the Cutting edge Course Design Tutorial. This tutorial provides an outstanding framework for developing a course around a set of goals.

Goals related to posing and solving problems, designing studies, and dealing with data

  • I want students to be able to use descriptions, isopach maps, structure maps, biostratigraphy, ranges, and well log cross sections and present multiple working hypotheses on the origin of the facies.
  • I want students to be able to make basic observations and interpretations of depositional and diagenetic history from outcrops, hand samples, and thin sections and predict future trends based on evaluation of the stratigraphic record.
  • I want students, when presented with a problem involving sediments/sedimentary rocks, to be able to recommend tools and additional data needed to solve the problem.
  • I want students to be able to take data (self-collected/existing data) and formulate a hypothesis and test their hypothesis.
  • I want students to be able to be able to solve problems in sedimentary geology that involve limited data and require students to work at different scales (grain to basin).
  • I want students to be able to build interpretations of processes into understanding of depositional settings and depositional history (e.g., sea level).
  • I want students to be able to identify 7 critical attributes of sedimentary rocks and use process response relationships to determine how the rock developed the attributes and use this information to predict heterogenity characteristics in areas where data are lacking.
  • I want students to be able to ask questions about sedimentary geology and, once a question is asked, know what data is needed to answer the question. I want students to be able to pose questions to test hypotheses.
  • I want students to be able to critically evaluate sedimentary geology data for strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.
  • I want students to be able to interpret the origin of sedimentary rocks and make predictions.
  • I want students to be able to make facies interpretation in 3D and 4D for societal purposes.

Goals related to depositional processes, depositional environments, and facies models

  • I want students to be able to make process interpretations of sedimentary textures and structures, linking products to processes.
  • I want students to be able to forward think—take a depositional system and visualize the active processes associated with erosion, transportation, and deposition and look at the product (opposite from product to process).
  • Students will be able to describe and interpret the facies in a depositional environment—both vertically and laterally and on a number of different scales.
  • I want students to be able to interpret depositional environments based on observed sedimentological data.
  • I want students to be able to relate sedimentary deposits to a process (es) that form and or modify the deposits.
  • I want students to be able to interpret vertical and lateral facies distributions using an appropriate facies model.
  • I want students to be able to describe at all scale and dimensions, analyze, and predict/infer where these products occur.
  • I want students to be able to use process understanding to explain what they see.

Goals related to observation

  • I want students to be able to make good observations.
  • I want students to be able to make objective observations that are reproducible.
  • I want students to make reproducible and accurate descriptions of sedimentary rocks, bedforms, and textures.
  • I want students to be skilled observers and recorders (know how to take field notes)

Goals related to other skills

  • I want students to be able to measure a section in the field and in core.
  • I want students to be able to measure a stratigraphic section and/or describe a sediment core.
  • I want students to know what to look for in the field.
  • I want students to be able to interpret a stratigraphic cross-section using lithostratigraphy.
  • I want students to be able to describe carbonate and siliciclastic rocks in outcrop, hand sample, and thin section.
  • I want students to be able to recognize distinction between observation and interpretation.
  • I want students to be able to analyze data presented and use for interpretation.
  • I want students to be able to use techniques (e.g., provenance analysis) and skills in working in sedimentary terrains.
  • I want students to be able to critically evaluate the literature about sedimentary geology.
  • I want students to be able to understand basic concepts such as origin of textures, bedding in a general sense, trace fossils.
  • I want students to be able to understand the fundamentals properties of sedimentary rocks and stratigraphic principles.

Goals related to visualization

  • I want students to be able to think in 3D and at different scales.
  • I want students to be able to visualize 3D plus time.
  • I want students to be able to visualize and conceptualize in 4D.

Goals involving communication skills and self-teaching skills

  • I want students to be able to learn and use the language of sedimentary geology and use the vocabulary to express the concepts.
  • I want students to be able to communicate their interpretations of a sedimentary deposition effectively and clearly using written and oral methods.
  • I want students to be able to talk about sedimentary geology with a PhD student doing research on some aspect of sedimentary geology.
  • I want students to synthesize data and communicate it well both in writing and orally.