Initial Publication Date: May 29, 2015

Course profile: Geoscience Processes

University of Texas at El Paso

Entry level course, 15 or fewer students

Information for this profile was provided by Richard Langford in 2007.

Jump down to Overview and Context * Course Content * Connecting to the Future of Science * Goals and Assessment * Additional Materials

Overview and Context

An introduction to field techniques and mapping taught from a variety of perspectives, depending on the instructor. The subject matter in Geoscience Processes is a laundry list of the skills and knowledge that we wanted our students to have coming into our upper division courses, taught, as much as possible in the field and with the specific goal of keeping our undergraduates interested in geology while completing their math and chemistry requirements.

Course Content

The Geoscience processes course includes 6 to 8 field laboratories that generally integrate geologic hazards and landforms with the teaching of field mapping skills in interpretation of geologic maps and cross sections. This is combined with basic surface processes and geomorphology to put the field laboratories in perspective. We expect the students that finish this class to be able to describe rocks in the field, make basic stratigraphic columns from field measurements, make and interpret geologic maps, and map landforms and surficial deposits. We specifically kept the course description vague, which has allowed faculty in a variety of disciplines to teach the class.

Connecting to the Future of Science

There are two main reasons that we are very satisfied with this course. Our students enter our program from a variety of introductory classes and from different institutions. This serves as an interest maintainer and leveling class. Also it serves our goal of keeping the students working on field labs and research projects throughout their curriculum. Careful scheduling has allowed us to regularly get our over committed, often employed commuter school students into the field at an early stage. As our student population diversifies, we face increasing challenges in bringing research and problem oriented learning to our students.

Goals and Assessment


Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:
  • Use a topographic map for navigation and recording of spatial data.
  • Construct and use topographic maps, topographic profiles, stratigraphic columns, and geologic maps.
  • Use a Brunton compass to measure geologic structures.
  • Use a geologic map, aerial photos, and remotely-sensed data in the field.
  • Keep an organized and complete field book, including making careful observations.
  • Think critically and quantitatively about those observations.
  • Visualize geologic data and relationships in three-dimensions.
  • Analyze crosscutting relationships.
  • Identify and describe common rocks, minerals, soils, and other geologic materials.
  • Identify and interpret tectonic, volcanic, and other landforms.
  • Develop and test multiple working hypotheses.


We perform a pre-course and post-course test of student material each semester. We use a fixed final exam which covers much of the course material.

Additional Materials

Download the course syllabus. (Acrobat (PDF) 169kB Apr16 07)