Teaching Structural Geology and Tectonics

Structural geology is an important part of the core geoscience curriculum because it draws on spatial, analytical, and quantitative reasoning skills both in the field and the lab. This site contains a variety of resources for faculty members to design an undergraduate structural geology course that develop and utilize these skills. You will find course and activity design ideas, pedagogical approaches, and a wealth of resources to supplement your teaching.

Course Design & Pedagogy | Resource Collections | Special Topics | Workshops & Events | Get Involved

Designing an Effective Structural Geology Course

1. Set goals

Learn to set effective course goals from the Course Design Tutorial. You can also browse course descriptions and syllabi from your colleagues to gauge the range of structural geology courses currently offered.

2. Consider assessment options

Aligning your assessment strategies with the goals of your course is an essential part of the design process. You can learn more about assessment in the section about Assessing Student Learning in the Course Design Tutorial and through our module on Observing and Assessing Student Learning.

3. Select pedagogies and specific teaching activities

The pedagogic techniques highlighted below can provide inspiration as you consider various approaches that will help you achieve your course goals. The resource collections are organized to provide a rich set of materials to draw from in constructing the specific set of learning experiences you want for your students. Finally, explore the more in-depth information and ideas available in special topics.

Selected Pedagogical Approaches

Structural Geology courses help students build a variety of skills and critical thinking abilities. A selection of pedagogies that lend themselves to skill development are:

Resource Collections

Once you've identified the core learning goals for your course, you can use them to focus your search for relevant materials in our resource collections. The materials listed below reflect the contributions of faculty members from across the country.

Special Topics

  • Major research frontiers, grand challenges, and thorny problems in structural geology & tectonics: At the 2012 Structural Geology and Tectonics Forum held at Williams College in June, 2012, we asked the 100+ participants to establish a list of major research frontiers in structural geology. This list of research frontiers and grand challenges is an outstanding resource to use when designing a structural geology course.
  • Teaching with GeoPads: From Integrating Research and Education provides practical advice on selecting software and hardware, accessing and formatting data, and designing and implementing a wide variety of instructional activities. Our goal is to minimize the technical, pedagogical, and practical barriers that make it difficult for novice users to efficiently and effectively use this technology in field instruction. So, if you are considering using this new technology in your own field instruction programs this site is for you!
  • Analytical Geophysical Instrument Registry provides faculty with a place to share information about geophysical equipment. If you would like to share access to the equipment at your institution, or if you would like to find access to instruments at other institutions, this is a great resource for you.

Workshops and Events

  • 2016 Structural Geology and Tectonics Forum: In July 2016, Sonoma State University will host the 4th Biennial Structural Geology and Tectonics Forum. This Forum will provide an informal and interactive venue for discussing important frontiers, new ideas, and current research in structural geology and tectonics. The Forum will also provide opportunities to discuss effective teaching of structural geology and tectonics. The Forum is aimed at professional geologists but will welcome advanced graduate students as well. The deadline for registration and abstracts is May 16, 2016. For more information, please go to the Forum web pages.
  • 2014 Structural Geology and Tectonics Forum, Colorado School of Mines: This NSF-sponsored Forum brought together over 100 structural geologists to discuss important areas of research in structural geology, to share current research, and to take part in field trips and workshops. The 2014 Forum program page includes links to individual presentations.
  • 2012 Teaching Structural Geology, Geophysics, and Tectonics: What are the grand challenges, leading edge ideas, and frontiers in structural geology, geophysics, and tectonics? How can we teach these ideas effectively in undergraduate courses? What innovative strategies can we use to integrate structural geology, geophysics, and tectonics in the courses that we teach for majors? What role can GIS and GPS analysis play in teaching these disciplines? This workshop was an exciting collaborative effort that addressed these and related issues in order to help faculty teach undergraduate structural geology, geophysics and tectonics more effectively. View the workshop program to download presentations and other supporting materials.
  • 2012 Structural Geology and Tectonics Forum, Williams College: This NSF-sponsored Forum brought together over 100 structural geologists to discuss important areas of research in structural geology, to share current research, and to take part in field trips and workshops. The workshop program page includes links to individual presentations.
  • 2004 GSA topical session: Teaching Structural Geology in the 21st Century. Download abstracts, Powerpoint presentations, and posters from the session at the GSA annual national meeting in Denver in November, 2004.
  • 2004 Teaching Structural Geology workshop: During the summer of 2004, 70 structural geologists from around the country met for a week-long workshop to explore best practices in teaching structural geology. Download handouts and supporting materials from workshop presentations and discussions or view the workshop program.

Get Involved

  • Contribute Materials We encourage faculty to contribute course descriptions and teaching activities to continue to build our collections.

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