Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Physical Geology

Eileen Herrstrom
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Author Profile


These activities take place in a lecture setting and require ~5-10 minutes to complete. Students apply lecture topics directly to answer questions, interpret maps and photographs, perform calculations, and plot data on graphs.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



Undergraduate class on introductory physical geology or quantitative reasoning for non-majors

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Must know how to create and interpret graphs (including triangle plots), explain diagrams, and read maps

How the activity is situated in the course

These activities were developed to complement lecture topics and thus are distributed throughout the course.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Examine lecture topics in more detail and apply concepts immediately; topics are earthquakes, plate tectonics, minerals and rocks, volcanoes, geologic time, petroleum, rivers, groundwater, glaciers, and climate change.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Make traditional lectures more interactive, hold students' attention throughout a class session, and deepen their comprehension and retention of lecture topics

Other skills goals for this activity

Increase attendance in a traditional lecture class and prepare students to complete weekly laboratory exercises

Description of the activity/assignment

The concept and name of "lecture tutorials" are not original but come from Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Geoscience (2012) by Kortz and Smay. These authors define a lecture tutorial as "a short worksheet that students complete in class, making the lecture more interactive."

Tutorials were added to a specific course to incorporate interactivity, hold student attention throughout a class session, improve student understanding, and increase attendance. The results are presented in more detail in the Instructors Notes, but adding tutorials to lectures has generally accomplished the goals listed above. The number of lectures with tutorials has increased since the first term of use.

This activity contains 26 tutorials, one for each lecture in the course. However, not every tutorial is used in every semester; they are rotated from year to year. Some tutorials are used but not collected for grading.

The accompanying PowerPoint slides may be incorporated into the lectures. These slides are written for the clicker option but can also be used with physical handouts after some modification.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Tutorial content is not graded because the answers are discussed in class. However, each tutorial is assigned 1 or 0 points for completion or omission of the work. Tutorials typically account for 3-7% of the total course grade, depending on the number of tutorials and the other elements of the course.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Kortz, K.M., and J.J. Smay, 2012, Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Geoscience, W.H. Freeman & Co., New York

Kortz, K.M., and J.J. Smay, 2014, Lecture Tutorials in Earth Science, W.H. Freeman & Co., New York

Anderson, J., 2014, The Benefit of Interactive Learning: Online resource – Accessed 27 July 2019.

Armbruster, P., M. Patel, E. Johnson, M. Weiss, 2009, Active Learning and Student-centered Pedagogy Improve Student Attitudes and Performance in Introductory Biology: CBE Life Sciences Education, v. 8, pp. 203-213. Online resource - Accessed 27 July2019.

Herrstrom, E.A., 2016, A Lecture Tutorial on the Mahomet Aquifer in Central Illinois: Earth Educators Rendezvous 2016, National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Accessed 27 July 2019. https://serc.carleton.edu/earth_rendezvous/2016/program/demos/tuesdayB/136698.htm