Reading and responding to geological journal articles

Rory McFadden, Salem State University

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This a semester long activity for students in a plate tectonics course will be read one (or two) geological journal articles every other week on the major topics covered in the course. Students will submit reading responses and there will be class discussions of each paper.

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This activity is aimed for undergraduate, sophomore-junior level course on plate tectonics.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

At the sophomore-junior level, students need significant background to read and decipher these papers (as well as other journal articles). Papers are chosen to build directly from lecture material.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is a biweekly, semester long project.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Concept and content goals students should gain:
  1. seafloor spreading and magnetic anomalies
  2. strength of the continental lithosphere
  3. morphology of ocean ridges
  4. models for wide rifting (e.g., Basin and Range)
  5. strike-slip partitioning
  6. tectonic underplating
  7. Appalachian orogen: Acadian Orogeny
  8. Himalayas: Channel flow

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Higher order thinking skills goals for students are:
  1. formulation of hypotheses
  2. critical evaluation of competing models
  3. synthesis of ideas

Other skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for students are:
  1. writing
  2. oral presentations

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity is designed to enhance students' depth of knowledge on specific topics in plate tectonics. It is also used to introduce students to reading, interpreting, and discussing geologic literature. The activity consists of biweekly reading assignments with accompanying reading response (one-page) and class discussion.

ReadingList_PlateTectonics_McFadden ( 31kB May4 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Leading the first discussion and giving specific examples of details that belong in the reading responses is important. The reading responses seem to help students be prepared to discuss the papers.


This activity is assessed by students' reading responses, presentations, and the class discussion.

References and Resources