GeoClick: Sedimentary Environments

Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina

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Initial Publication Date: December 2, 2021 | Reviewed: August 4, 2022


Formative assessment questions using a classroom response system ("clickers") can be used to reveal students' spatial understanding. Students are shown this diagram and instructed to "Make a prediction: Identify where you would expect to find [rock name] forming?" Possible choices include conglomerate, breccia, sandstone, siltstone and limestone.

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Learning Goals

Students should be able to match sedimentary environments with the rocks that are likely to form in them.

Students may use both categorization and 'locating self and other objects' spatial skills.

Context for Use

This question is appropriate for an introductory lecture on sedimentary environments. Students should have a basic understanding of 1) how grain size, shape and sorting change as you get further from the source, and 2) sedimentary rock names.

Description and Teaching Materials

Students apply their understanding of sediment characteristics and rock names to identify where sedimentary rocks may be forming using a simplified cross-section of a landscape.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This GeoClick question could be preceded by clicker questions such as:

How does (grain size, shape, sorting) change as you get further from the source material? (increases/decreases/stays the same; becomes more rounded/becomes more angular/stays the same; becomes more well sorted; becomes more poorly sorted; stays the same)

Students might also be asked to write a short description of what they know about different sedimentary rocks (sandstone, siltstone, etc.) in their notes prior to this activity.


This question is useful for students to self-assess where their answer fits relative to other students in the class. The web-based system can display student responses in a heat map image that highlights the most common answers. In most systems it is possible to designate a region for the correct answer, but receiving a right-wrong answer is likely less useful than engaging students in peer discussion if the students' responses do not converge on one region.

Note that there are multiple locations where some rocks could be expected to form. For example, breccia and conglomerate could be found throughout the mountainous region. If the instructor asks first about breccia, then conglomerate, then a brief discussion could ensue about why (hopefully) the region selected moved further downstream.

References and Resources

LaDue, N.D. and Shipley, T.F. (2018). Click-on-Diagram Questions: A New Tool to Study Conceptions using Classroom Response Systems. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 27(6), 492-507.