Rock-Tectonics synthesis lab

Dori Farthing
SUNY Geneseo
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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 16, 2008


This lab aims to draw together rock identification and plate tectonics as well as relative age relationships. It gets students to "be" geologists...looking at rock suites and trying to see how they fit with the tectonic setting.

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Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Before doing this lab students must know:
  • how to identify plate boundary types and to understand what geological activity is taking places at these boundaries
  • how to identify some basic rock types
  • the relative age principles of superposition and baked contacts.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand alone lab that comes after a tectonics lab, a minerals lab, and a rocks lab.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The goals of this lab are to a) get students to review their rock identification skills and their plate boundary identification skills and b) to draw together concepts from the rock ID lab and the plate boundary lab and to incorporate relative dating concepts.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students are asked to gather data from maps (global earthquakes, volcanism, sea floor ages, and topography) and rocks and hypothesize the formation history of the geology of a region.

Other skills goals for this activity

this lab is done as a group.

Description of the activity/assignment

This lab helps students bring together their ability to describe and identify rocks and to push students to think about how the rocks formed based upon their understanding of the geological processes taking place at certain tectonic boundaries.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The immediate lab is graded on completion. Students' grasp of the material is assessed through a quiz the following week as well as through select questions on the lab exam.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

The plate tectonic maps that we use are from and activity titled Discovering Plate Boundaries by Dale Sawyer.

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