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Earth Processes

Mona Sirbescu, Sven Morgan, Maria Gonzales, Lisa Boettcher

Central Michigan University (Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate)


Physical Geology at introductory level, with emphasis on developing scientific and quantitative skills through experimentation, quantification, and problem solving. It satisfies the quantitative general education requirement and combines lecture and lab in 4 hours per week, 15 week semester. It includes a two week group project and a 5-7 page written report with calculations and graphs.

Course Type:
Entry Level:Physical Geology

Course Size:

Course Context:

This is a combined lecture-lab course, with no pre-requisites, but serves as one of the required courses for students majoring in Geology, Earth Science Education, Integrated Science Teachers, etc. It also satisfies the general education requirement for Natural Sciences, Quantitative and Mathematical Science subgroup, so it is taken by a very diverse population of students. The course has a writing/computation intensive requirement. About two of the four hours per week are spent by working in groups. Most discovery-based group exersises and the main group project and report include formulation of hypotheses, data collection, calculations, and graphing.

Course Goals:

Content goals:
Be able to apply scientific method to geologic phenomena and understand its uncertainties
Estimate and quantitatively describe rates of geologic processes
Analyze and interpret experimental and observational data
Make predictions about geologic change using quantitative models or mathematical and physical laws
Extrapolate from simple models to Earth

Skills goals:
Critical thinking skills
Quantitative skills
Working in groups
Writing and oral skills

Attitudinal goals:
Acquiring a positive attitude about math and science
Developing students' sense of the importance of Earth science


Assessment of student learning:
Course evaluation
Results and student feedback from a two-week long student project and report
Before and after scientific literacy and math skills quiz

Goals have been met only in part. Need a better strategy to improve students' attitude towards math.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 55kB Jun22 06)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Textbook: How does Earth work?, by Smith and Pun. ??? 2006. Pearson/Prentice Hall
Lab Manual: Laboratory Manual for Physical Geology, 12th edition, by Zumberge, Rutford, and Carter. ??? 2003. McGraw-Hill.

Interactive exercises: