Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Group-Based Projects In Metamorphism: Case Study
Originator Alan Boyle
Department Department of Earth Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK
Tel. +44 (0)151 794 5154
Fax +44 (0)151 794 5196

Over the last 6 years, second year geology students have completed a group-based practical project in metamorphism, involving the study of about 30 pelite specimens, about one third of which also have thin sections. The specimens are located on a topographic map and the students have to:

  1. identify mineral assemblages and summarise;
  2. identify potential isograds;
  3. illustrate the isograd reactions with appropriate compatibility diagrams (AKF, AFM etc.);
  4. construct a field gradient using a suitable petrogenetic grid;
  5. summarise the metamorphic evolution of three of the specimens using not more than one side of A4 for each (essentially mini posters);
  6. write a <200 word summary of findings;
  7. present the whole in a binder with contents page etc.;
  8. complete my marking proforma by commenting on their own work and assessing its value, including how the group functioned.

The project is designed to make students gather a wide range of information, to analyse, synthesis and report it in a succinct manner. Tasks 1-4 above can be divided up but must be internally consistent which provides a valuable check for assessment. Tasks 5-7 force students to severely edit what they hand in, especially the 200 word summary limit. Task 8 forces the group to reflect on what they have done.

Originally, the project was done on an individual basis but during modularisation of existing geology courses, the formal time available for practicals was decreased to comply with faculty guidelines. The halving of practical time meant that individual projects became unsustainable. As a result I changed it to a group-based project running over 3 weeks, using established 2nd year tutorial groups. Various advantages accrued from this:

Student feedback has been generally positive. Some suggest that they would have preferred to do it alone, many said that they would have like more generous word and page limits. However, the students already get plenty of practice working alone and the severe page and word limits are to force the groups to decide what they consider to be really important, rather than just presenting everything they have seen.


Group work
Independent learning

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Page created 5 June 2000
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