Initial Publication Date: July 19, 2012

Example Goals for Undergraduate Courses in Structural Geology, Geophysics, and Tectonics

What are we trying to accomplish in an entry-level structural geology, geophysics, or tectonics course for majors beyond exposing them to a body of knowledge and providing them with grades on their transcripts? What do we want students to be able to do when they are finished with the course? What value have we added to their future abilities as a result of having taken the course? Answering this question is crucial, because a course should be designed not merely to expose students to information, tell them about topics, and show them concepts. Rather, a course should give students first hand experience in what we want them to be able to do when they are done with our courses.

We asked the 50 participants of the workshop Teaching Structural Geology, Geophysics, and Tectonics in the 21st Century to answer the question, "What do I want my students to be able to do when they are done with my course?" We have grouped responses to the question by broad content area in the list below.

If you are interested in ideas for taking goals such as those below and designing a course to help students achieve those goals, go to Choosing Content to Achieve Course Goals and Developing a Course Plan in the Cutting Edge Course Design Tutorial. This tutorial provides an outstanding framework for developing a course around a set of goals.

Kip has prepared a list below to catalyze our discussion

Examples of some general goals

  • Use data in time series to make predictions
  • Use some form of computational program to fit a function to a dataset
  • Quantify gradients
  • Recognize the role of uncertainty in science and quantify uncertainty in calculations
  • Design an experiment or an observational campaign
  • Develop multiple working hypotheses in seeking to explain observed phenomena
  • Limit the range of possible explanations for an observation or experimental result
  • Describe a process through both mathematics and narrative
  • Explain a concept to a non-scientist

Examples of some goals for SGT courses

  • Extract a deformational history from a geologic map
  • Predict the mechanical behavior of mineral or a rock at a specified temperature, pressure, and strain rate
  • Infer (not just describe) how plate tectonics manifests on the continents based on a knowledge of plate kinematics and the physics of deformation
  • Interpret a geophysical data set, evaluate the uncertainties and limitations, and present the results of analysis
  • Predict natural hazards from tectonics