Learning Assessment #3 - Igneous & Sedimentary Rocks

Leslie Reid1, Ben Cowie1, Michelle Speta2
1University of Calgary, 2University of Alberta


An in-class activity that tests students' understanding of igneous and sedimentary rocks and processes.

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This activity was used in an introductory physical geology course that is also open to students in all faculties, and is a mandatory course for geoscience majors. 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:
a) igneous processes (melting, crystallization etc.)
b) igneous rock types and chemistries (intrusive vs. extrusive, felsic vs. mafic, specific rock names)
c) volcanic processes (types of eruptions and lava flows, types of volcanoes)
d) sedimentary processes (weathering/erosion, transport, deposition, lithification)
e) sedimentary rock types (clastics vs. carbonates, specific rock names)

Students must also be comfortable with the basics of plate tectonics (i.e. a subduction zone setting), as covered in Learning Assessment #1.

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

Developing an in-depth understanding of igneous and sedimentary rocks and processes (expanding on the basic concept of the rock cycle, covered in Learning Assessment #2), with a special focus on volcanism. Applying igneous and sedimentary processes in the context of a large-scale tectonic setting.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Analysis of data (e.g. Given a detailed geologic map of a volcano, what information can you derive about the volcanic activity over a range of time periods?)

Synthesis of ideas (e.g. How do igneous and sedimentary processes fit into a large-scale tectonic setting?)

Other skills goals for this activity

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

Description of the activity/assignment

Learning Assessment #3 is carried out over two class periods. Parts 1 and 2 are completed in the first period and part 3 in the second. The two parts are graded separately and have separate feedback activities.

Part 1 of this activity is on igneous rocks and processes. Students are provided with a cross-section and asked to describe the igneous processes that are occuring at 4 different locations marked on the cross-section. They must also describe the name, type (intrusive vs. extrusive) and chemistry (felsic vs. mafic) of igneous rock that would be forming at each location. A detailed geologic map is also provided.

Part 2 of the activity is on sedimentary rocks and processes. Students must indicate on the same cross-section where each of the 3 major sedimentary processes is predominant (weathering/erosion, transport, deposition/lithification). For bonus marks, in the areas of deposition/lithification, students can indicate the type of sedimentary rock that would form (sandstone, shale or limestone).

Part 3 of the activity asks students to interpret the geologic history of the Diasen Volcano, based the provided detailed geologic map (from Tamura et al. (2003); used with permission from the publisher). Students must describe the volcanic activity that would have been occurring and sketch a small schematic cross-section for four specified time periods.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Learning assessments are returned to students during a review period where the instructor devotes a class to going over the activity and explaining common errors. Learning assessments are graded using a checklist-style rubric which is a more detailed version of checklist provided to students with the assignment. Using the graded checklist as a guide, students complete a feedback activity during the review period, which gives them an opportunity to reflect on their understanding of the concepts covered in the learning assessment. The feedback activities are submitted, allowing the instructor to determine whether students have met the goals of the activity.

Because Learning Assessment #3 is divided over two class periods, it has two separate feedback activities that were also completed over two class periods.

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