Plate Tectonics

Sarah Titus

Carleton College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


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Course Context:

This is a mid-level Tectonics course for majors and introductory geology is a pre-requisite. This course has a required four-hour laboratory section.

Course Goals:

  1. Students should be able to interpret different kinds of maps and relate the map data to plate tectonic processes.
  2. Students should be able to solve a variety of plate tectonic problems using quantitative methods.
  3. Students should be able to produce a well-written scientific paper that assimilates information from class and from the primary literature.
  4. Students should be able to design an experimental laboratory exercise for their peers about a particular plate tectonic concept.

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

For each goal listed above:
  1. We look at maps in lectures and in laboratory exercises. Maps are included on each exam.
  2. Homework exercises are designed to explore plate tectonic problems such as isostasy and euler poles using quantitative methods. Similar problems show up on exam questions.
  3. The writing goal is achieved through a course wiki, where students have weekly assignments and receive feedback from the instructor and fellow students above ways to improve each written assignment. To ensure that editing occurs, changes can be tracked using the wiki format and part of the final grade is based on editing their own and their peers work.
  4. Experimental labs: half of the labs in the course are dedicated to designing an experimental lab for their peers. This lab must include an experimental component as well as other exercises that help illustrate their chosen plate tectonic concept (like hotspots, focal mechanisms, convection).

Skills Goals

These are folded into the content goals above, but this Tectonics course stresses:
  • quantitative skills
  • student writing and editing



Syllabus (Microsoft Word 89kB Jun20 07)