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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2011-12. The current handbook year is 2021-22

Department: Earth Sciences

GEOL1091: Principles of Earth Sciences

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2011/12 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce the fundamental principles of Earth Science.
  • To illustrate the relationship between rocks and minerals and the processes by which they were formed.
  • To place Earth processes in the context of the plate tectonic cycle.
  • To examine the role of Earth Sciences in Society.
  • To deliver all of the critical Earth Science content as (1) a stand-alone understanding of Earth Sciences and its role in Society, and (2) a learning platform for all year 2+ Earth Science students. Pedagogically this can be seen as “shallow but broad” learning. Allows for early and widespread introduction of research and associated approaches.


  • Seminar style. 20- themes, each delivered by a member of staff. Module coordinator attends all (and gets workload credit) to ensure consistency and serve as a point of contact to reassure students. Provides an opportunity for students to meet and experience a broad range of Earth Science staff, and allows us to showcase our research i.e. “Research led teaching”. Each theme presenter provides some reading material and some questions prior to the seminar. After delivery students split into groups for discussion and come together at the end to address the questions. Idea is to engage students more with content and embed a culture of thinking and discussion early.
  • 1 Introduction to earth Systems
  • 2 Making the Universe - atoms and minerals
  • 3 Introduction to rocks - I Igneous and metamorphic
  • 4 Introduction to rocks - II sedimentary rocks and sedimentary environments
  • 5 Geologic time I Stratigraphic
  • 6 Geologic time II Evolution of Life
  • 7 Geologic time III Chronology and dating
  • 8 Natural Resources
  • 9 Structures
  • 10 Geologic history of the British Isles
  • 11 Interior of the Earth - seismology
  • 12 Gravity and geodesy
  • 13 Continental Drift & Plate tectonics
  • 14 Plate Boundaries
  • 15 Weathering, erosion and landforms
  • 16 Earthquakes and seismic hazards
  • 17 Volcanoes and volcanic hazards
  • 18 Water
  • 19 Oil and geoenergy
  • 20 Environment and climate change

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Relate the principles of plate tectonics to the formation of igneous and metamorphic rocks and natural phenomena (earthquakes, volcanoes and crustal deformation).
  • Explain how plate tectonic, surface and climate processes are responsible for generating sediments, and influence the development of sedimentary systems.
  • Apply geophysical principles (seismology, gravity) to understanding the structure and composition of Earth’s interior.
  • Relate physiographic features of the Earth’s surface to the processes responsible for their formation.
  • Relate Earth Science principles to Earth Resources.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Familiarity with Earth Science literature and its format.
  • Understanding of Research Methodologies in Earth Sciences, and an appreciation of the specific research foci in Durham Earth Sciences.
Key Skills:
  • Work in teams.
  • Confidence in discussion and debate.
  • IT (DUO) skills.
  • Writing skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Online tests (one per term)
  • Essay questions set to do over the vacations at the end of term – each theme leader sets one question and students choose two and write 2 x two page essays.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 20 1 per week 1 hour 20
Practical 20 1 per week 2 hours 40

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
On-line Examinations 50%
Essay Assignments 50%

Formative Assessment:

Discussion and feedback at every class meeting.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University