Geologic Photo Field Trips to View Rocks, Geologic Structures, and Landforms in Introductory Physical Geology

submitted by

Stephen B. Harper Department of Geology, East Carolina University
Author Profile

Field photographs are used to enhance the instruction in teaching rocks, geologic structures, and landforms in Introductory Physical Geology lecture at East Carolina University. The field photographs are used to enhance the visual component of Physical Geology and are focused on rock outcrops (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic), geologic structures (faults and folds), and landforms (volcanic, weathering-erosion, mass wasting, fluvial, wind-desert, coastal, and karst).
GSA Poster ( 9.1MB Nov14 09)

Learning Goals

Field photographs are used in Physical Geology lecture to encourage students to interpret the relationship between rock type and landforms and between geologic structures and landforms based on the student’s own observations.

Geologic Skills:
Students participate in a series of virtual geology field trips by observing and describing rock outcrops, geologic structures, and landforms in field based photographs.

Higher Order Thinking Skills:

Other Skills:
Good visual observational skills


Instructional Level:
The photo-based geologic field trips are aimed at freshman-sophomore level undergraduates, who are non-majors. However, they could also be used for grades 9-12 as well as for an undergraduate course in Geomorphology.

Skills Needed:
Descriptive notes in Physical Geology lecture provide a means of review of the important processes in each topical unit. Next, students are assigned homework questions and a virtual field photograph exercise following the discussion of each unit in the classroom. Depending on what level the instructor wants to teach to, the course content of a process-oriented introductory physical geology or landforms course would provide adequate background for students to interpret the landforms and geologic materials shown in the photo-based field trips.

Role of Activity in a Course:
The Photo-based geologic field trips eventually will serve as a central integrating theme in my introductory physical geology course. The activities will be used in class as well as posted on my departmental WEB site.

Data, Tools and Logistics

Required Tools:
No special equipment or tools are needed for the landform interpretation exercises. One would only need access to the internet.

Logistical Challenges:
Inadequate knowledge on how to use form/morphology to interpret/infer process(s) that lead to formation of a specific landform. So, the instructor would need to be flexible depending on the level of students he/she is teaching.


Evaluation Goals:
I would simply like to know if students learned more by looking at geologic features, materials, and landforms in field photographs than by looking at geo-cartoons or no visualization at all.

Evaluation Techniques:


This can be determined from my poster