Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Learning Assessment #2 - The Rock Cycle

Learning Assessment #2 - The Rock Cycle

Leslie Reid1, Joel Cubley2, Michelle Speta3
1University of Calgary, 2Yukon College, 3University of Alberta

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

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jul 20, 2012


An in-class activity that tests students' understanding of the rock cycle.

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Introductory physical geology course that is required for geoscience majors and but open to students in all faculties. No pre-requisite courses required. The course page is available at: http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/coursedesign/goalsdb/65489.html

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must be familiar with the basic concepts of metamorphism, igneous processes (melting, crystallization) and sedimentary processes (erosion, deposition, lithification). Knowledge of basic rock names (granite, shale, schist) and other relevant terminology (e.g. re/neo-crystallization etc.) is also necessary.

How the activity is situated in the course

This assignment is part of a series of in-class activities known as learning assessments. However, it would also be suitable for use as a stand-alone exercise. Students are strongly encouraged to work in groups, however each student must submit their own assignment. Learning assessments are all "open book" and students are encouraged to use their textbooks and other external resources to help them complete their assignments.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Understanding the rock cycle - the processes involved in the formation of each rock type and how the three rock types are related. Understanding the different lines of geologic evidence that confirm these relationships.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Synthesis of ideas (i.e. how are all the different rock forming processes related to one another? What kind of evidence is there for this is in the rock record?)

Other skills goals for this activity

Writing, working in groups, using external resources (e.g. internet, textbooks)

Description of the activity/assignment

In this activity, students are asked to consider three different rocks: granite, shale and schist. Can these rocks become one of the others through geologic processes? Students are asked to describe the relationships between the rock types, the geologic processes involved and the geologic evidence for these relationships. Diagrams to help support their answers are suggested but not required.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Learning assessments are graded using a checklist-style rubric which is returned to the student with the assignment. This helps both instructors and students gauge student understanding and identify misconceptions.

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