Sedimentology and Stratigraphy

Julie Bartley

Gustavus Adolphus College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


This course addresses sedimentary rocks and sedimentary systems. It includes sediment transport and deposition processes, sedimentary environments and systems, and stratigraphic patterns.

Course URL:
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-division, elective course with physical geology as a prerequisite. Students are sophomore-senior geology majors. The course has three hours of lecture and three hours of lab weekly, and includes a required two-day field trip. Nearly all students are traditional-age, residential undergraduates.

Course Goals:

Students will be able to acquire and interpret data from sedimentary deposits to reconstruct the processes that formed and modified them.

Students will be able to collect data or use existing data, at a variety of scales (outcrop to grain) to formulate and test a hypothesis about the nature and distribution of sedimentary environments or facies in space.

Students will be able to interpret changes in a depositional environment through time (stratigraphic change) at a variety of spatial and temporal scales, based on data from sedimentary rocks and successions, and propose a defensible mechanism for those changes.

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

Project/case-based approach: Students will do three or four medium-sized projects (each spanning ~2 weeks) and several short cases/projects (one day to one week) that give them practice in one or more of the three goals. G3 is most complex, as it involves both space and time, so this goal will be emphasized in later parts of the course; earlier projects will focus on process and space goals (G1 and G2).

Assessment will follow directly from the goals, so graded work will focus on the goals themselves.

Skills Goals

Students will be able to communicate, orally and in writing, their interpretations of a sedimentary environment and to defend their interpretation using data.

Students will be able to communicate information and interpretations about a rock, outcrop, or sedimentary system using appropriate graphics (sketches, stratigraphic sections, facies maps, etc.)

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

The skills goals are woven into the content assessment, and time is spent in class working on those skills goals as well.


Several of these activities lend themselves to concept sketches, and this is a good way to assess whether students are seeing connections among disparate data sets. I envision asking students to make concept sketches to solidify the connection between content delivered in a lecture and a concept they'll be tackling in an activity, perhaps.

Summative assessment will focus on doing more than on knowing. The majority of assessment will surround the activities and projects. My plan is to develop rubrics for each activity and share the rubrics with students when the assignment is made. Exams will ask students to analyze a dataset and propose hypotheses, and will likely be take-home exams. I'd also like to assess students' level of confidence in their own mastery. I want them to reflect on their growth and evaluate their own (and perhaps their peers') work with some seriousness.

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