Geology 101 - Introduction to Physical Geology
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Syllabus - Introduction to Physical Geology


Geology is a core science, along with physics, chemistry, and biology. It uses rigorous methods of inquiry that illuminate the history of the earth and its present-day geological activity. Geology allows us to discover how earth's history and activity determine the state of the planet and its life forms. The study of geology also shows us how human behavior affects the earth. Topics we will cover include plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, rocks, minerals, geologic time, glaciers, rivers, geologic structures, layers of the earth, and reading maps. This course includes laboratory work and lab credit.


It is required that you have passed a course in Algebra and a course in English at the high school senior level prior to taking this class. Although it is not required that you have already taken and passed English 101 and a college-level math class that includes algebra, it would help. If you have not yet taken and passed English 101 and a college-level math course with algebra, you must be academically documented as being prepared to take English 101 and first-quarter college math (100 level or higher). The documentation can be either your scores on college-entry assessment tests, which show that you are prepared, or else grades on your college transcript that show you have passed all the developmental classes needed to prepare you to take English 101 and college-level math. For the Geology 101 class, any extended writing, such as an answer to an essay question in a lab, must meet the writing rubric standards to be worthy of credit, and any graphs or calculations completed and reported for class assignments must meet the calculations and graphs rubric standards.


The required text for this course is the web pages in Geology 101 - Introduction to Physical Geology at

If you would like an additional text, which is at your own option and is not required, one that is recommended for this course is The Essential Earth by Jordan and Grotzinger, published by Freeman. It is available in online format. Or, you can order a paper copy from an online bookstore of your choice. To reiterate, this is not a required textbook. The only required text for this course is the content of the web pages for Geology 101 - Introduction to Physical Geology. Lab materials will be provided.



To use the technology in this class to support your learning, you need to be able to:


This class is a hybrid, a combination of in-person and online learning. The in-person part of the course includes lectures, group learning activities, and laboratory research, usually conducted with a lab partner. The online part of the class includes reading, finding and analyzing data, quizzes and, importantly, engaging with other students in online discussions of geologic topics. The online part of the class is asynchronous, which means that you go online at times that fit your schedule, as long as you contribute to the online discussions during the first, middle, and last portions of the week, and take your quizzes by the time they are due.


See your official college class schedule for the days and times we meet each week for the lecture part of the class. I will use some lecture time to take care of class business such as reminding you of due dates. I will also conduct mini-lectures to illustrate and explain more about the main learning topics for the week.

You will spend roughly half of your lecture time applying and building your new knowledge in group learning activities. Some group activities will include oral reports or other products shared with the rest of the class. These activities earn points towards your grade. Links to PDF files of activities are located in the online classroom weekly folders. See the in-class activity grading rubric.


You are expected to come prepared to the the two-hour laboratory meeting each week, in which you will conduct your research and gather data, usually with a lab partner. Your level of preparation will be assessed by your completion and submission of the lab preview quiz. To conduct the laboratory work in person, you will be given a lab worksheet. A link to a PDF of the lab worksheet will also be available in the Lab Folder for that week in the online classroom. The lab preview quiz is in the weekly Lab Folder in the online classroom. After the lab and outside of class time, you will finish interpreting your lab results and complete your lab. Completed labs are due at the start of lab the following week. See the lab grading rubric.


The online part of the class will require you to login and take part at least five days a week. In the online classroom you will take your pre- and post-quizzes and engage in the two weekly discussion forums, the weekly discussion forum and the weekly quiz question discussion forum. See Online Quizzes , Quiz Question Discussions, and Online Discussions for more detailed descriptions of these online learning opportunities. See the online discussions grading rubric and the quiz question discussions grading rubric.


Some assignments and assessments occur just once, as follows.


You will proceed through the course and learn most of the content through a sequence of modules. A module consists of:


There are three aspects to the online quizzes each week: the pre-quiz, the quiz question discussion, and the post-quiz. Each pre-quiz must be taken prior to the first lecture/lab meeting of that week. Each post-quiz must be taken after to the last lecture/lab meeting of that week. Your contribution to the quiz question discussion must be posted any time after class meets on Monday and before 5 PM Thursday that week.


Points are earned on the pre-quiz for completing the quiz and doing your best to answer the questions, regardless of whether your answers are correct. It is important, nonetheless, that you do your best to answer each question correctly on the pre-quiz.

The pre-quiz allows you to learn what you know and don't know about the upcoming topics, and tells you which subjects you will need to concentrate your efforts on.

For missed pre-quizzes, there is no make-up opportunity, not even partial credit, because it is no longer a legitimate pre-quiz once the due date has passed and the learning has begun in that module's topics. You must take the pre-quiz by the time it is due, and before you open any other items in the learning module.


Between each pre-quiz and post-quiz, there is an online discussion forum about the quiz questions. Each student is assigned one question from the quiz. The quiz question discussion is a valuable study aid.

In each weekly quiz question discussion, it is up to you to study your assigned question and post to the rest of the class:

The forum aids your learning by giving you an opportunity to consider and discuss all the best answer choices and, more importantly, the reasons they are the best answers. See the quiz question discussions grading rubric.


Post-quizzes are taken after completing a learning module. A post-quiz contains the same questions that were in the pre-quiz for that module.

Unlike pre-quizzes, the score you earn on a post-quiz reflects how many questions you answer correctly.

Both the pre-quiz and the post-quiz are time-limited and, once begun, must be completed within the time allowed. The quizzes are available only between the last class or lab hour of the week ending and the first class hour of the following week. Do not wait until the first class of the following week because the previous week's post-quiz and the current week's pre-quiz will already have closed.


Readings are listed in the weekly folders in the online classroom.


A slide show lecture that outlines the topics, concepts, and terminology to learn that week is located in each weekly folder in the online classroom.


In the online discussions, you and the rest of the class will address thought-provoking questions together. This takes place in the online discussion forum that is part of each module. See the online discussions grading rubric.


At the beginning of the quarter, before you delve into this class, you will take a concept inventory, a measurement of your basic knowledge of geology. The concept inventory is a set of multiple-choice questions and is taken online. The concept inventory must be taken in the online classroom by the end of the first week of the quarter.

Your points on the concept inventory do not depend on whether your answers are correct. You will earn points by simply completing the inventory to provide an honest accounting of your geology knowledge prior to taking this course. You are not expected to know much about geology prior to completing the concept inventory.

The questions that compose the concept inventory will be the same questions that compose the first half of the final exam.


The only exam in this class is the final exam. There are three parts to the final exam. Part of the final exam will repeat the questions from the concept inventory given at the beginning of the quarter. The second part will be a selection of questions from the weekly quizzes. The third part will be a selection of questions from the rock and mineral lab quizzes.

All three parts of the final examare online. You can take each part of the exam on a different day if you want. You will have to complete each of the first two parts of the final exam within an hour once you open each of them, and the last part, the rocks and minerals part, within half an hour once you open it. The final exam, all parts, will only be available during the dates and times give in the course schedule.

There is no re-taking any part of the final exam once you have taken it.


The course learning objectives include college-wide core abilities and geology learning outcomes specific to introduction to physical geology.


  1. You will communicate skillfully in diverse ways and in diverse situations.
    In this class, your ability to communicate is demonstrated in oral or equivalent live reports, written essays, lab reports, digital slides, spreadsheet graphs and tables, and maps and diagrams with appropriate keys and explanations that you draw and label. Diversity in your ability to communicate will also be developed and demonstrated online through threaded discussions (or other online or electronic communication formats) in which you communicate during the days the online discussions are active, respond to other student messages, and demonstrate in your messages knowledge that you gained by having read the previous postings in the discussion forum.
  2. You will locate, use and analyze information and technology resources.
    In this class, your ability to find information and make new knowledge from it is demonstrated by how you use of field observations, maps, library research, and the Internet as sources of information. You will demonstrate that you are intellectually honest, and that you are aware of how knowledge is built by people sharing information, by always citing all your sources of information, including any and all Web sources of information and digital images.
  3. You will think critically (analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply, problem solve, reason qualitatively and quantitatively).
    In this class, your ability to think critically is demonstrated in your analyses and geologic interpretations of rocks, minerals, and maps; your observations and interpretations of geologic field sites on the Web and in reality; and by proposing hypotheses, testing your hypotheses, and reporting the results of your tests in terms of the established theories of geology.
  4. You will act responsibly as an individual and as a member of a team or group.
    In this class, your ability to be responsible for yourself and to your collaborators is demonstrated in your contributions to paired or grouped laboratory analyses and lab reports, by serving various roles in your classroom activity teams, and by your on-time, full-share contributions to team projects.
  5. You will seek knowledge, information and diverse viewpoints.
    In this class, you ability to seek knowledge, information and diverse viewpoints is demonstrated by, among other things, comparing scientific methods and scientifically established theories with alternative sources of knowledge such as urban myths, word of mouth, and "common sense."
  6. You will clarify and apply a personal set of values/ethics.
    In this class, your ability to make clear and apply your personal values and ethics is demonstrated by stating what actions you might take that affect the earth and its resources and systems, including the climate system.


Upon completion of this course, successful students will (be able to) demonstrate the following abilities. Note that explanations, descriptions, and so on may be out loud, in writing, or both. Also note that students with disabilities may be accommodated with alternative methods to achieve outcomes.

  1. Scientific behavior: Think, behave, and communicate scientifically, and collaborate with others learning science and conducting research.
  2. Dynamic nature of earth: Gather, show, and explain evidence of the earth as a dynamic, ever-changing planet. This includes the rock cycle, plate tectonics, and exchange of matter and energy among earth systems.
  3. Earth systems: Identify and describe earth systems, explain their chemical compositions and energy exchanges, and analyze their interactions and feedback effects on each other.
  4. Rocks and minerals: Observe, describe, classify, map and narrate the origin of geologic materials. This may include minerals, rocks, and the unseen, deeper layers of earth's interior, and may include fossils.
  5. Geologic time: Put geologic events in order and determine the age of geologic materials.
  6. Maps: Interpret spatial and quantitative information with maps and diagrams.
  7. Numbers and graphs: Make appropriate measurements, numbers, calculations and graphs to test hypotheses and account for the behavior and properties of earth.
  8. Earth hazards: Analyze, explain, locate, and prepare for earth hazards.


Because geology is the study of the entire planet and its history, this course will allow you to make decisions as a global citizen, and gain insight into how geology determines and influences trade and commerce, environment and ecology, comparative cultures and identity, creative expression, imagery and the arts, science and technology, and language and communication.


Communication is vital to your success as a student. This applies to communicating in person or on the Internet. To succeed in this class, you must commit to frequent and substantive participation in the online classroom. An important part of your participation will be communicating effectively in the online discussions and via email outside of assigned discussions.


First and foremost, you must have an up-to-date email address to which the online classroom forwards you messages. I may send a personal email if I need to get in touch with you regarding an assignment. If you have a computer or email issue that prevents you from sending and receiving email, please fix it right away.

Next, I expect that you will be online frequently. In the online classroom, please check announcements and online discussion updates at least three times a week. Check your email at least every 24 hours (or at least every 48 hours on weekends). In addition, respond to emails about the class within 24 hours (or within 48 hours on weekends).

Late assignments or missed instructions will not be excused by saying, "I didn't get your email," or "Sorry, I haven't been checking my email." As a student in this class, you commit to regularly checking your email, online announcements, and the weekly online discussion.


Be polite in all online communications. Think carefully before referring to a person or a person's behavior. Do not use any derogatory names or judgemental terms. Avoid lumping people into political or ethnic groups.

The following email techniques help ensure that email communication is effective, personable, and successful. The key is to keep in mind the person to whom you are writing the email.

These effective email procedures apply to your responses to other students in online class discussions, and to the instructor, within or outside of the online classroom.


Maintaining your academic integrity will help you achieve your highest learning potential. It begins by following the student code of conduct and builds from there by taking positive actions that improve the learning environment. Positive actions include complimenting the good work of others, providing honest, fully disclosed, friendly criticism for those who ask for suggestions on how to improve their class work, accepting criticism from others of your class work as suggestions you can use for improving your work without getting defensive or taking offense, studying productively with other students in and outside of class, and helping set up, distribute, collect, and clean up when materials, equipment, or handouts are involved.

There is nothing more powerful for demonstrating your knowledge than to express it in your own words, your own phrases, your own sentences, and your own paragraphs. Conversely, a strong sign of not knowing something well is to copy from other sources. Plagiarism is a common temptation to which you must not succumb if you are serious about learning and getting credit for your learning.

Plagiarism is defined in the Wenatchee Valley College Student Handbook as the "deliberate adoption or reproduction of ideas or words or statements of another person as one's own without acknowledgement." It may not be obvious from this statement, but this includes copying pictures as well as copying text.

Here are some examples of plagiarism.

Plagiarism is unethical, against the academic code of the college, grounds for a zero grade on the assignment, and may result in an F for the course. Plagiarism is a failure to demonstrate learning, and on that basis alone should earn no credit. Because plagiarism is dishonest and unscholarly it is grounds for an F in the class, particularly if I have shown a student that he or she is committing plagiarism, asked the student to stop, and he or she continues to plagiarize. The two ways to avoid plagiarism are to write your own sentences and answers and, if your information is based on other sources, list those sources clearly and completely. In addition, if you do copy an answer word-for-word or nearly word-for-word, be absolutely clear and honest about the fact that you are quoting another source, either by putting it inside of quotation marks, or else by introducing it as a copy and putting it in a separate, indented block of text.

Now that you know what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, I expect that you will practice good scholarship and that you will succeed as a student! Sources must ALWAYS be cited for anything you write or any image you copy in this class, REGARDLESS of whether the instructions for a particular assignment say so.

Note: If you answer an essay question in this class with a quote, you will receive only half credit, even if the answer is correct and you have cited your source. For full credit, you must write a substantial, explanatory part of any essay answer yourself.


If you want full credit for your work, turn it in on time, following the instructions. It is unfortunate if events beyond your control cause you to miss class or miss completing your assignment on time, but if such events occur to you, keep in mind that it's best to focus your effort on what is due next, to complete that work on time, and to avoid spending your time and effort on opportunities that have already passed by.

This course is not about points or grades; it is about learning. Activities, quizzes, discussions, and labs are designed as learning experiences that cannot be duplicated working alone beyond the days scheduled. The learning experiences are more effective and have greater value when they are completed with the rest of the class and submitted on time. On that basis, here are the policies:

These two policies hold regardless of the reason, regardless of any discussion with the instructor, and regardless of any statements elsewhere in this syllabus..

The following bullet points allow adjustments to the online part of the class.

Note that an incomplete grade is not possible for this class as a whole.


Assignment name # of occurrences Points possible per occurrence Total points possible
Concept Inventory (5 pts), Entry Survey (2 pts), Exit Survey (3 pts) 3 10 up to 10 extra credit points
Weekly Group Learning Activities 10 10 100
Weekly Lab Preview Quiz 10 5 50
Weekly Lab 10 25 250
Rock and Mineral Quizzes 4 10
(metamorphic 5)
Online Weekly Discussion (Prpn) 10 10 100
Online Weekly Pre-Quiz (PreQ) 10 2 20
Online Quiz Question Discussion 10 3 30
Online Weekly Post-Quiz (PostQ) 10 10 100
Term Project 1 50 50
Final Exam, online 1 85 85

TOTAL POINTS POSSIBLE IN COURSE (not including extra credit) = 820

Your course grade will be based on the total percentage you earn, as shown here:
>90% = A, 80-86% = B, 69-75% = C, 55-65% = D, <55% = F


Percentages between those values earn a plus grade (for example, 89.9% is a B+), or a minus grade (for example, 90.0% is an A-).

A C is an average, satisfactory grade. If you earn a C grade for the course, it means you have learned quite a bit of basic geology and shown that in some cases you were able to apply your own knowledge and critical reasoning to solve problems or answer questions.

An A is an exceptional grade. An A is earned by students who attend all classes, complete all assignments on time, and read and follow instructions. In addition, to earn an A, a student must go beyond the instructions and demonstrate an exceptional commitment to learning geology.

As noted in the explanation of online discussions, for each two-week interval that a student does not participate in the online discussions, his or her course grade is lowered a step, such as from a C- to a D+. An incomplete grade is not possible in this class.

GRADING TURN-AROUND TIME and REPORTING Quizzes and the final exam are graded by computer instantaneously, but you may not be able to see your results until the end of the day it is due. The weekly discussion and weekly quiz discussion will usually be graded within 48 hours. The weekly labs, which are due on Thursdays, will normally be graded by Tuesday of the following week. The term project may take up to a week to be graded. You will see your scores listed in the grades in the online classroom.


Students of all abilities are welcome in this class. Appropriate efforts will be made to accommodate you. The goal is to provide access to appropriate learning resources and learning support for all registered students. If you have disability documentation and recommendations for accommodating your needs, contact your college disability services to make sure they know your needs and your paperwork is up to date. In addition, please share that information with me and discuss how the class can work for you.

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Geology 101 - Introduction to Physical Geology
Created by Ralph L. Dawes, Ph.D. and Cheryl D. Dawes, including figures unless otherwise noted
updated: 3/28/15

Unless otherwise specified, this work by Washington State Colleges is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

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