Skill puzzles

Sarah Titus, Carleton College

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These are short exercises that allow students practice with concepts in Structural Geology, Tectonics, or Geophysics. (Many of them were designed with Eric Horsman.) The basic idea is to give students opportunities for frequent practice with difficult concepts, many of which require spatial visualization skills. These activities nearly always fit on a half-sheet of paper, and include a visual and verbal component. Instructors may use them for formative assessment or as group activities in class.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



I use these types of activities in all my courses, but they tend to work best in upper level courses like Structural Geology, Tectonics, and Geophysics.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

I use the activities following introduction of some concept - e.g. structure contours - to allow students the chance to practice the ideas.

How the activity is situated in the course

Often, I use these to break up lecture or as a starting exercise to get students going.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

These activities are meant to provide practice interpreting maps, cross-sections, block diagrams, etc.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

These activities do not fall in the realm of higher order thinking skills.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

Faulted fold block diagram (Illustrator 203kB Apr30 12)
Pure shear (Illustrator 276kB Apr30 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Most of the activities have a layer in Illustrator that contains the key.


I don't always use these materials for assessment, but they can be collected to see which students are struggling with particular concepts. Also, many of my exam questions are modeled off of these types of puzzles.

References and Resources