Teach the Earth > Petrology > Teaching Activities > Learning pseudosections with Perplex

Learning pseudosections with Perplex

Dave Hirsch
Western WA Univ Geology
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
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For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Apr 23, 2010


This is a set of five assignments that build upon each other to teach students how to use Perplex to make pseudosections.

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I use this assignment for a good portion of my Advanced Metamorphic Petrology course (graduate students/seniors).

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should understand the concept of a solution model, types of metamorphic reactions, and basic thermodynamics.

How the activity is situated in the course

I assign these, one per week, for five consecutive weeks. We spend part of a lab session in the computer lab each week getting started on that week's assignment.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Goals include understanding the use of thermodynamic databases, learning to use Perplex, understanding pseudosections and how to use Perplex to make them.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

During this activity students learn how to develop computer representations of metamorphic rocks.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students also learn to use the command-line (Mac/Unix/PC) to run computer programs.

Description of the activity/assignment

This is a set of five exercises that teach the basic skills of using Perplex and the possible types of understanding one can gain from the use of internally-consistent thermodynamic databases. The exercises culminate in the creation of a pseudosection for a particular rock.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students are evaluated by checking that turned-in homework has the correct figures, reactions, etc.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Current versions of Perplex (it is updated often) can be found here:

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