Initial Publication Date: May 21, 2012


Dave Mogk, Montana State University.
This page is a supplement to the original course description found here

Short description of the course:

Introduction to mineralogy includes the following topics:
  1. hand sample identification of rock forming minerals including physical properties, occurrences, and assemblages
  2. principles of crystallography and crystal chemistry
  3. introduction to optical mineralogy
  4. introduction to modern analytical techniques, XRD and SEM/EDS
  5. and an end-of-term research project using these techniques

Design Philosophy: How is teaching the methods of geoscience integrated into the course?

This Mineralogy course has 4 components, each focused on different aspects of geoscience methods practiced by professional geoscientits:
  1. observation, description and classification of minerals, based on physical properties, associations and natural occurrences;
  2. theoretical aspects of mineralogy, based on the principles of crystallography and crystal chemistry that explain the physical and chemical properties of minerals;
  3. analysis of minerals, using the petrographic microscope, XRD and SEM/EDS methods to characterize the composition and structure of minerals as tests of the theoretical basis; and
  4. application of the principles of mineralogy in a research project designed to integrate multiple lines of evidence to solve a mineralogic problem.

Key Activities: How do these activities address teaching the methods of geoscience?

The first half of the Mineralogy course is based on hand sample identification of minerals using direct observation of the physical properties and associations of minerals. The second part of the course focuses on crystallography and crystal chemistry and employs physical crystal models (manipulatives), ball and stick models of mineral structures, and computer-based visualizations and animations of crystal structures. Analytical methods include use of the petrographic microscope for optical mineralogy, powder X-ray diffraction, and SEM/EDS methods for characterizing the morphology, composition and structure of minerals. All of the above are integrated in a final research project (~1 month) where students work to solve a mineralogic problem identified by a mentor (faculty or grad student) to provide interpretation of minerals in an authentic research context. Students also have required weekly readings from the literature to demonstrate the principles covered in a given unit, and to demonstrate the application of mineralogy to diverse fields of research (e.g. why is apatite the mineral "of choice" for forming bones?)

Assessment: How are the methods of geoscience assessed?

Assessment of student learning is done in many ways:
  1. weekly quizzes of minerals in hand sample (and in context)
  2. problem sets that apply principles (e.g. mineral formula recalculation)
  3. short writing assignments on significance of assigned minerals
  4. lab practicums demonstrating appropriate use of instruments (microscopes, XRD)
  5. final integrative research report