Metamorphic Petrology

Dave Mogk

Montana State University
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs


Metamorphic petrology covers the chemical and physical work done in natural systems in response to changing physical conditions. Petrogenetic processes such as recrystallization, continuous and discontinuous reactions, mixed volatile reactions and deformation are addressed. The principles of metamorphic petrology are then applied to a number of orogenic events through geologic time, and modern advances in research in metamorphic petrology are explored.

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
Resource Type: Course Information:Goals/Syllabi
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Course Type: Upper Level:Petrology
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Petrology
Course Size:


Course Context:

This is a junior-level, 3 credit class required of all geology majors in the Department of Earth Sciences. The organization of the class is lecture (~25%), problem solving (~25%, including some computer modeling), and laboratory activities with emphasis on hand sample and petrographic descriptions and interpretations of metamorphic rocks (~50%).

Course Goals:

Students should be able to
--apply fundamental principles of metamorphic petrology
--describe metamorphic rocks, their mineral assemblages and textures,
--Interpret metamorphic processes from evidence obtained in hand sample, thin section, and analytical data (mineral composition),
--Interpret tectonic setting of metamorphic belt, and
--Critically evaluate the literature regarding metamorphic principles, observations, to gain a better understanding of the earth system.

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

The course is designed to scaffold activities such that each week's work builds on previous material: simple recrystallization; metamorphic reactions in a closed system; isograds, metamorphic facies; continuous reactions; mixed volatile reactions; metamorphism and melting; and metamoprphic tectonites and deformation. A series of problem sets are used to demonstrate these principles, and hand sample and petrographic observations are used to demonstrate these processes as preserved in the rocks. Students then apply these concepts to a critical review of literature about a) orogens throughout geologic time, and b) recent advances in research in metamorphic petrology. Assessments include: complete and correct solutions to problem sets; quality of hand sample and petrographic descriptions; and application of principles to critically review the literature (as written reviews).

Skills Goals

Students should be able to:
--identify metamorphic rocks in hand sample;
--identify metamorphic minerals in thin section and interpret metamorphic textures;
--apply mineral compositional data to thermobarometry; --use information/literature skills,to access and interpret the geologic literature; and
--develop writing, verbal, and quantitative skills for class presentations.

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

Weekly lab write-ups are used to assess hand sample and petrographic descriptions. Problem sets are used to demonstrate the development of analytical and quantitative skills. Class presentations are used to demonstrate written and verbal communication skills.

Attitudinal Goals

Field trips (weather dependent during a late spring season) are used when possible to attract students' attention.

All lab work is done collaboratively and cooperatively, with an emphasis on group inquiry that hopefully leads to mastery of material by all (most).

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

An atmosphere of open discussion, question-asking, and problem-solving is created to help students in their professional development as scientists.


1. Weekly lab assignments for hand sample and petrographic identification of minerals and textures.
2. Problem sets.
3. Written, take home final exam.
4. Oral presentations to the class on new frontiers of metamorphic petrology research.


Metamorphic Petrology (Microsoft Word 36kB Jul3 12)

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