Geology 100 - Introduction to Geology

Alan Paul Price
, University of Wisconsin - Washington County


This course is an introduction to physical geology taught at a first-year level in an all-lecture format.

Course Type: Intro Level:Physical Geology Intro Level
Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

This course is an introduction to physical geology taught at a first-year level in an all-lecture format. It has no prerequisites, it does not serve as a prerequisite, and it partially fulfills a natural science credit for both an AAS and a Bachelor degree.

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:

Introduction to Geology focuses on physical geology. It is a three-credit lecture course.

Course Goals:

A. Knowledge and Understanding: On completing the course, students will demonstrate that they:
1. Can define and can apply the basic tenets of systems theory to physical geology;
2. Can recall the most basic minerals and explain their relationship to rocks;
3. Can describe the main rocks and explain their formation and relationship to plate tectonics;
4. Can recall and explain the basic structure of the earth;
5. Can recall and explain basic geophysical principles of seismic waves, magnetism, gravity and isostasy;
6. Can describe, explain and use principles of relative and absolute age dating;
7. Can describe and explain major plate boundaries and their associated physical features;
8. Can describe and explain earthquakes and their relation to landforms and tectonics;
9. Can describe and explain geologic structure, associated landforms and relation to tectonics and rocks;
10. Can describe and explain formation and destruction of plates and continents;
11. Can describe and explain role of water on earth;
12. Can describe and explain weathering and the formation of sediment;
13. Can describe and explain basic surface processes such as mass movement, running water and glaciers and their relationship to landforms.

B. Skills: On completion of this course, students will demonstrate that they:
1. Can read, summarize and interpret the appropriate texts;
2. Can communicate ideas orally;
3. Can interpret maps, diagrams and graphs pertaining to physical geology;
4. Can interpret photographic and other images pertaining to physical geology.

Course Features:

Students have to
1. Take four exams that are a mixture of written and objective questions.
2. Answer daily warm-up questions that prepare them for lecture, class discussion, and lecture exam questions.
3. Take short daily quizzes designed to make them review their notes from the previous lecture period.
4. Participate in class discussion and questioning.

Course Philosophy:

The course design evolved over the course of sevferal years to a point where I felt I could ask substantive questions on exams and feel confident that the students that participate in class could answer them properly.


Objectively, I pay attention to how students deal with exams - not just the score but how well they deal with particular questions.

I also spend a little time analyzing some of what comes back in the warm-ups. Though most of my grading on these is purposefully perfunctory, even a light once over provides some idea of their understanding on important points.

The quizzes tell me something about (a) how well they understood items from the last class or (b) whether they looked at their notes before class (not quite a s useful to me, I'm afraid).

D2L, the courseware we use, tracks how often they access the site and what parts they use. This tells me something about which resources they find most useful.

And, of course, I'm attentive in class to what ideas they are having trouble with and which they do not. The back and forth I have during the normal lecture and the interaction we have when discuss the warm-up questions gives me some idea of the level of understanding and how well my presentation and the book are working.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word PRIVATE FILE 352kB Jul11 08)

References and Notes:

Course text: How does earth work? - Smith and Pun
I also assign readings from Fundamentals of Physical Geography by Pidwirny are online at I used this with other books when I wanted to talk about systems some more.