Stratigraphy & Sedimentation

Rachel Headley,
University of Wisconsin-Parkside


Course Size:
less than 15

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

Course Context:

This is an upper-level (300) geology course on sedimentology and stratigraphy. It is a requirement for all majors in the Department of Geosciences, and these are generally the only students who take the course. There are prerequisites of a geoscience lab course, introductory geology, and historical geology.

Course Content:

Stratigraphy & Sedimentation focuses on the formation and interpretation of sedimentary systems, from sediment grains to depositional basins. The course starts from the grain scale and moves up to basin and global scales.

Course Goals:

Students will be able to link grain data and sedimentary processes.
Students will be able to link sedimentary processes and depositional forms.
Students should be able to identify large-scale depositional systems in the context of environments and global changes (i.e., transgressions or regressions).
Students will be able to identify and name major categories of sedimentary rocks.
Students will be able to connect different methods/techniques for studying stratigraphy and geologic time.

Students will be able to create a stratigraphic cross-section from borehole data descriptions.
Students will be able to use Google Earth to find specific types of depositional environments.
Students will be able to process and describe sediment samples.
Students will be able to design and implement an experiment (specifically one on evaporite basins).

Course Features:

In labs, students identify sedimentary rocks, use sieves and sort sediment samples, examine and interpret thin sections, use Google Earth to investigate fluvial environments, create and interpret stratigraphic cross sections, perform an experiment in a large flume, and create an experiment on evaporite deposition.

Course Philosophy:

The course was fairly traditional with active lectures three times a week, a weekly quiz, and a weekly 3 hour lab. All classes were in the same room, with a projector at the front and large lab tables throughout. This was the first time I have ever taught this course, so I mainly followed along with the previous years. There will be substantial changes over the next few years, including a move away from such direct instruction and better integration of the labs with the rest of the course.


For their grades, I used a combination of exams, quizzes, and lab write ups. During the course, students' participation in the active lectures and labs was taken note of (but not used for a grade), and this provided on-the-fly assessments.
On the exams and quizzes, I had some simple MC and short answer questions to for lower-level learning goals, like terminology familiarity and rock or setting identification.
Exams and labs also had long-answer questions that asked the students to synthesize their learning for more complex learning goals, particularly related to process and formation.
At the beginning of the course, I gave a pre-assessment to gauge their prior knowledge. This way I was able to guide the course in a way that better fit the students (i.e., all students had at least one chemistry class but only one had calculus and physics).


Strat/Sed Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 108kB Jun3 14)

Teaching Materials:

Feedback (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 55kB Jun3 14)

References and Notes:

Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, Boogs
As this was my first time teaching the course, I opted to use what has historically been used. It was more used as a reference than a source of regular reading.

For the evaporite experiment, we used
Lowenstein, T.K. and Hardie, L.A., 1985, Criteria for the recognition of salt-pan evaporites: Sedimentology, v. 32, p. 627-644.
SERC Activities used for the labs include orkshops/sedimentary/activities/13705.html

SERC Materials used for pre-assessment