Relative Time Application and Synthesis Exercise

David Steer
The University of Akron
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  1. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

    This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
    • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

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  2. This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see

This page first made public: May 23, 2008


This classroom activity is a formative assessment that explores the degree to which students can apply relative time principles and synthesize that information with concepts related to the rock cycle.

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Introductory earth science course for non-majors (see the course profile page for this course)

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The students must understand the rock cycle; including end-member igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and the processes that form them. They should be learning how to apply principles of relative time.

How the activity is situated in the course

This class-long exercise is integrated with a lesson on principles of relative time. Rock cycle and rock classification must be taught before this lesson.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Apply principles of relative time to determine the sequence of events. Integrate concepts from the rock cycle into a lesson on relative time.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Determining the sequence of events is application/analysis level. Selecting proper descriptions of the types of rocks forming the various layers is analysis. Student drawing their own diagram is synthesis.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students work in groups to complete these activities.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students are expected to complete readings related to relative time principles prior to class (most don't do it). This activity allows them to apply the rules and extend their knowledge by drawing their own diagram.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Student work is checked (letters in correct order) by instructor/TA walking through room. Sketches are graded on a 1-2-3 scale where 1 is poor, 2 mostly correct, 3 correct. Also students must complete a similar exercise on the exam.

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