Workshop Overview

Columnar basalts, Iceland. Image credit: Barbara Tewksbury.
Many challenges exist for those teaching mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry in the 21st century. What can we do to make mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry as relevant as possible to 21st century students? What are the frontiers, leading edge ideas, and grand challenges in these fields, and how can we teach those topics effectively? Can GIS and remote sensing be effectively integrated into these courses? For curricula that are shifting the focus of their required courses, what is the most effective way of designing "hybrid" courses, e.g., a 1-semester course in Earth materials that might be a student's only experience in mineralogy and petrology? How can we enhance the effectiveness of courses in mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry by incorporating best practices in pedagogy and assessment?

Workshop goals

First and foremost, this workshop will help participants develop effective and innovative courses for majors at the undergraduate level in mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry. In order to accomplish this, participants will:

  • Establish goals for students and, in the context of those goals, develop course materials that reflect best practices in effective teaching and assessment.
  • Develop an action plan for implementing the new course and/or course materials and participate in self-reflection and assessment after the implementation.
  • Contribute to the Cutting Edge goals/syllabus database for MPG courses and the online collection of assignments and activities for teaching MPG. Participants will also be invited to participate in an email list for workshop participants.

Over the course of the workshop, we will have synchronous online discussions, as well and some optional sessions, on a variety of topics of potential interest to participants. These topics will include, but are not limited to:

  • Making mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry relevant for undergraduate students.
  • Teaching the grand challenges, frontiers, and leading edge ideas in mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry.
  • Designing an effective course in "Earth materials" that combines mineralogy and petrology to meet a 1-semester course requirement for majors.
  • Integrating GIS and remote sensing into mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry courses.
  • Effective assessment for mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry courses.
  • The affective domain. What role does this/should this play in our GIS/remote sensing courses?

Format and dates

Mingled magmas, East Iceland. Image credit: Barbara Tewksbury.
The events of this workshop are spread out over about eight months to give participants time for development, feedback, and testing. The workshop will take place largely on line but will have one face-to-face opportunity, which previous course design workshop participants have found enormously valuable. Here is the schedule:
  • Workshop kick-off: Participants will choose to attend either the face-to-face or the virtual kick-off event as outlined below. Those who attend the virtual kickoff on Thursday, March 29 will not take part in the face-to-face kickoff on March 31.
    • The virtual kickoff will take place on Thursday, March 29, 2012 from 3-6 pm EDT. This synchronous event will take place using Blackboard Collaborate web conferencing and will give those who cannot attend the face-to-face kickoff an opportunity to interact with other workshop participants in a virtual setting.
    • The face-to-face kickoff will take place on Saturday, March 31, 2012 from 8:30-5:00 pm in Asheville, NC: For those who are able to travel to Asheville, the face-to-face kickoff will be held in conjunction with the SEGSA meeting. We will meet in the Alexander Room of the Renaissance Asheville Hotel.
  • After the kick-off, participants will have two weeks to work on and post the first workshop assignment and receive initial feedback from leaders and other participants.
  • Online synchronous session on Thursday, April 12, 2012, 3-6 pm EDT: This online session using Blackboard Collaborate will involve discussion and presentation of the next phase of the design process. After the session, participants will have a month to work on and post the second workshop assignment, participate in asynchronous discussions and optional webinars, and receive feedback from leaders and other participants.
  • Online synchronous session on Thursday, May 3, 2012, 3-6 pm EDT: This online session will prepare participants to work over the summer on their design projects. Participants will set goals for summer work.
  • Online synchronous session on Thurs, October 25, 2012, 3-6 pm EDT: This online synchronous session will include an electronic poster session showcasing work that participants have done over the summer.

Expectations of all participants

All participants are expected to:
  • Participate in all synchronous workshop sessions. Those unable to travel to the March 31 face-to-face kick-off are expected to participate in the virtual kickoff on March 29 from 3-6 pm EDT.
  • Complete assigned work between scheduled workshops sessions.
  • Post completed assignments by the stipulated deadlines.
  • Receive feedback from workshop leaders and provide feedback to other online participants.
  • Consult individually with workshop leaders via e-mail or phone (optional).
  • Contribute to the Cutting Edge resource collections by reviewing/testing existing items in the collection and submitting new ones.

Application and selection criteria

To be considered for participation in this workshop, an applicant must hold a faculty position at a two- or four-year college or university. We welcome applications from faculty who teach mineralogy, petrology, and/or geochemistry at the undergraduate level. This virtual workshop is limited to 30 participants, and the final list of participants will be established with the goal of assembling a group representing a wide range of experiences, educational environments, and specialties. Application must be made on line by March 1, 2012 and successful applicants will be notified by March 7, 2012.


The registration fee for this workshop is $50. The cost of the workshop is partially supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation as part of the professional development program On the Cutting Edge. Participants will pay the workshop registration after acceptance to the workshop at the time they confirm their participation.

Further information

Contact Barbara Tewksbury (