Introductory Geology

Libby Prueher
University of Northern Colorado


Geology 100 is a General Education introductory geology course covering earth materials, surficial processes, internal processes, and a brief overview of Earth history. The objectives of the course are to provide you with a fundamental understanding of the basic geological concepts and appreciation for the geologic world that surrounds you.

Course Type: Intro Level:Physical Geology Intro Level
Course Size:
greater than 150

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

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

The course is an introductory course with no pre-requisites. The course can serve as a pre-requisite for Historical Geology. 90% of the students take the course to fulfill a general education requirement. Students who decide to become geology majors may use this course as a pre-requisite for Historical Geology.

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? yes
They cover the same material but the majors course covers the material in greater detail.

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 covers the basics of geology - rocks and minerals, rock deformation, seismic and volcanic activity, plate tectonics, earth history, glaciation and climate change. In the laboratory, students learn rock and mineral identification, work with topographic and geologic maps, study seismic activity and participate in a field trip.

Course Goals:

The objectives of the course are for students to develop a basic understanding of the planet on which they live. The objectives of the laboratory include:
  1. How to collect, organize and interpret geologic data;
  2. Understand some of the quantitative methods needed to interpret this data; and
  3. Learn to observe the geologic features in the natural world.

Course Features:

The laboratory is the main section of the course designed to provide students with hands-on experience with geological materials and methods.

"Geology in the News".

The students may find an article discussing a current geological event or concern. The students then present the article to their classmates. Currently, this activity is extra credit, but I would like to expand it and use it to generate discussions.

Course Philosophy:

The course design works the best with the large enrollment and inadequate classrooms. The course is taught in large, amphitheater-type classrooms.


Assessment is the weak point of this course. With an enrollment between 200 and 300 students per semester, the assessment relies heavily on online quizzes, 2 multiple-choice exams and one multiple-choice final exam.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 50kB Nov24 08)

References and Notes:

Course text: Lutgens and Tarbuck