Structural Geology (EAS 425)

Kyle Fredrick

California University of Pennsylvania
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


Conventional Structural Geology course with a primary focus on recognizing and measuring structure. Considerable time is spent on graphical analysis of structures (3-point problems, stereonets, remote and field mapping).

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Course Context:

This is an upper-division required Structural Geology course with prerequisites of Introduction to Geology, Historical Geology, Physics, and Sedimentology/Stratigraphy. The course is mixed lecture and lab, and includes a required two-day field trip.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to interpret geologic maps and construct cross sections.
Students should be able to measure strike and dip in the field and develop a cursory sketch of the broader structural stresses.
Students should be able to formulate basic properties of the rocks based on small- and large-scale structural features.
Students should be able to create and interpret a stereonet.
Students should be able to interpret air photos to delineate large-scale structural features and determine broad tectonic stresses.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Students use the Marshak and Mitra workbook to learn about measuring and displaying structural principles. These activities are embedded throughout the course and are turned in by chapter assignments. These are graded as an assessment. Also, field and computer labs during the course give the students the opportunity to practice their skills of recognition and interpretation. Each lab has a report or worksheet as an assessment.

Skills Goals

Quantitative abilities
Visualization skills (2D/3D correlation)
Accessing and Critically reading the geologic literature
Peer-teaching and working in groups

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Students are encouraged to work in groups for the labs, and informally, peer-teaching occurs by default. Some students catch on to some topics (especially visualization skills) sooner and are able to convey different techniques for working through problems.
Labs include using different representations of 2D or 3D information and converting back and forth between the two.
Students are assigned multiple readings of primary journal papers and required to provide a critical review.

Attitudinal Goals

Building confident in discipline-specific abilities
Increasing student excitement and wonder about the Earth
Building an appreciation for looking at problems in different ways and using different tools.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Visualization is a mantra throughout the course. Students are constantly challenged to look at structural problems in different ways. Many of these skills are completely new, and some students develop them quickly, while others lag. I have learned that there is no correlation between previous course achievement and visualization/spatial reasoning skills. Often, it is the students that struggled in other classes that are the first to understand topics in Structure. This helps to build confidence and also builds a sense of accomplishment and collegiality throughout the class.


Students are graded on labs, field and lab reports, literature reviews, and exams.


Course Syllabus for Structural Geology (Microsoft Word 78kB May7 12)