GEOL-131: Physical Geology

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
Physical Sciences
Academic Level
Course Subject
Course Number
Course Title
Physical Geology
Credit Hours
Instructor Contact Hours Per Semester
77.00 (for 15-week classes)
Student Contact Hours Per Semester
77.00 (for 15-week classes)
Grading Method
Catalog Course Description

Introduces the materials, processes, and concepts of geology. Topics include minerals, rocks, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanism, erosion, water, wind, glaciers, and geologic time. Laboratory work is devoted to hands-on projects involving geologic materials and processes, including rocks and minerals, maps, folds and faults, and dating of geologic features and events. This is a four (4) credit course with three (3) hours of lecture and two (2) hours of laboratory per week.

Goals, Topics, and Objectives

Goal Statement
To give students the opportunity to understand the interactions between rock, water, air, and energy on and within the Earth; also to develop students' confidence in scientific methododology, interpretation and reaction to scientific issues affecting the world.
Core Course Topics
  1. Minerals
  2. Rocks
  3. Plate Tectonics
  4. Geologic Time
  5. Mass Wasting
  6. River Systems
  7. Glaciers
  8. Deserts
  9. Volcanism
  10. Earthquakes
  11. Crustal Deformation
Core Course Learning Objectives (Separated)

A student successfully completing this course will be able to:

  1. Identify and classify minerals.
  2. Identify and classify igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
  3. State the modes of occurrence of the three rock types.
  4. Explain the basic tenets of the theory of plate tectonics, and how it serves as a "unifying theory" for geology.
  5. Identify the major features of river systems, glaciers, and volcanoes.
  6. List the controls on the character of volcanic eruptions.
  7. Explain the roles of running water, ice, wind, and mass wasting (e.g. landslides) in shaping the Earth's surface.
  8. Identify the major types of seismic waves, and explain the differences between them.
  9. Explain how earthquakes occur.
  10. List the major divisions of the geologic time scale, and explain how the time scale is constructed.
  11. Use relative dating principles to place a sequence of geologic events and features in their correct order using a block diagram.
  12. Compute absolute ages using radiometric dating principles.

The student will also:

  1. Communicate concepts through the spoken and written word, and through data graphs and charts.
  2. Apply rigorous thought and observation to scientific problems.
  3. Arrange objects, events, or ideas in a specific order.

Assessment and Requirements

Assessment of Academic Achievement

Student mastery of course objectives will be achieved through class participation, laboratory projects, weekly review questions, in-class quizzes, and exams;

The course is divided into three (3) units, each of which will be presented with a combination of lectures, readings, and laboratories. Student mastery of course topics will be assessed on an ongoing basis through instructor scoring of lab and homework assignments and quizzes, and feedback to students on areas needing improvement. Assessment of overall mastery within each course unit will be accomplished through an exam scheduled to take place at the end of the unit.

General Course Requirements and Recommendations

This is a four (4) credit course with three (3) hours of lecture and two (2) hours of laboratory per week. Students are expected to attend all class sessions. Attendance is taken by the instructor.


Essentials of Geology, by Lutgens, F.K., and Tarbuck, E.J., published by Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2006 Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology, edited by Richard M. Busch


General Education Categories
  • Natural Sciences
Institutional Outcomes
  • Scientific Reasoning
MTA Categories
  • Category 6: Natural Sciences (Lecture and Lab)
Satisfies Wellness Requirement

Approval Dates

Effective Term
Fall 2019
ILT Approval Date
AALC Approval Date
Curriculum Committee Approval Date
Review Semester
Fall 2019