Teach the Earth > Sedimentary Geology > Sedimentology, Geomorphology, and Paleontology 2014 > Teaching Activities > Hillslope diffusion

Hillslope diffusion

Jeni McDermott, University of St. Thomas (MN)
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jun 5, 2014


This lab is designed to help students apply hillslope diffusion equations (derived in class prior to the lab) to understand real-world hillslopes. The major goal is a deeper understanding of hillslope processes and the equations used to describe hillslope diffusion by observing the same factors described in the equations on real-world hillslopes.



200-level geomorphology course for majors

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Hillslope diffusion equations (outlined in the lab documents) should have already been presented / derived before beginning the lab. Students do not need to fully grasp these concepts as that is the primary goal of the lab.

How the activity is situated in the course

A lab activity following lecture


Content/concepts goals for this activity

ability to 'read' complicated equations that describe the landscape, hillslope diffusion processes

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

formulation of hypotheses, synthesis of ideas, linking mathmatical concepts to real-world situations

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

Prior to this lab, hillslope diffusion equations (including the transport law, continuity equation, and steady-state equations) are derived in class. In this lab, students examine two primary features of hillslopes: (1) changes in slope from the top of a hillslope to the base, and (2) changes in regolith thickness from the top of a hillslope to the base. Students measure these factors in several places along a hillslope and then synthesize those observations with respect to the equations for hillslope diffusion.
Hillslope diffusion lab description (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 182kB Jun5 14)

Teaching Notes and Tips


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