Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Course Descriptions > Physical Geology

Physical Geology

Alisa Hylton
, Central Piedmont Community College


This is an introductory physical geology course. It fulfills ½ of a lab science requirement for transfer to a 4 year institution or Associate of Arts degree. The class has lecture, lab and an online component.

Course Type:
Entry Level Physical Geology

Course Size:

Course Format:
Students enroll in one course that includes both lecture and lab. The lecture and the lab are both taught by the professor.

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

This course has been approved to satisfy the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement general education core requirement in natural sciences/mathematics in the NC University system. It is an entry level course for both non-majors and majors

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? no

If students take a "non-majors" course, and then decide to become a major, do they have to go back and take an additional introductory course? no

Course Content:

This course introduces basic landforms and geological processes. Topics include rocks, minerals, volcanoes, fluvial processes, geological history, plate tectonics, glaciers, and coastal dynamics. Upon completion, students should be able to describe the basic geological processes that shape the earth.

Course Goals:

Successful completion of this course should allow students to:
1. Make the connection between a required lab course and the world in which they live. (if they get this one it would be bliss!)
2. Demonstrate the connection between Earth materials and public policy in local, regional, national and international settings. In our region water has been THE topic.
3. Be able to know what geologic factors to evaluate when choosing a home location.

Course Features:

I am not yet satisfied that the class is meeting the goals. The quizzes are application-based with a few definition type questions. I am working on getting to a capstone project for lab in this course. I try to use as much case study material as possible in lecture to emphasize the practical nature of the material.

Course Philosophy:

Part of my course design is working within the confines of space and the lack of field trip opportunity. I have the flexibility to combine lecture and lab (taking into account the double size lecture) and enhance everything with web-based material.


Short quizzes (most cover two chapters)
Lab activities
Small group lab presentations


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 28kB May27 08)

References and Notes:

Course text: The Essential Earth
I liked both the text and the ancillary web support.

I use in-house labs due to the cost of a separate manual. Many of my students have a difficult time affording the lecture text. Another reason to use the in house labs is being able to tailor my activities to the needs of my students.
The USGS, EPA, IRIS and DLESE websites and I think Google Earth is going to become essential.