Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Earth Sciences


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • GEOL1021 Earth Materials [may be co-requisite].


  • GEOL1021 Earth Materials, unless taken before.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce techniques for the field/virtual description and interpretation of natural geological features.
  • To introduce a range of mapping skills, observation and recording methods necessary for geoscience fieldwork and virtual imagery.
  • Processing of data acquired during field work


  • Field and virtual methods and principles.
  • Mapping of solid rock, geomorphology mapping and Quaternary deposits.
  • Geological field-craft and data collection, structural measurements, scale sections and sedimentary logging.
  • Interpretation of geological maps, Topography and outcrop patterns.
  • Stereographic projections of geological structures
  • Contacts: conformable, unconformable, tectonic, intrusive, geological columns and cross-sections.
  • Introduction and demonstration of geographical information systems (GIS).
  • Aerial photographs.
  • Field safety.
  • Mapping training and field skills. Choose from residential (+plus one day trips) or virtual field classes. This will include a mix of one-day trips and a residential trip. Note field classes are available for virtual study.
  • 3 dimensional interpretation of geological maps and structures.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will be able to understand how geoscience data is represented on maps, visualise and understand how maps relate to the natural environment and be aware of problems and limitations associated with such representations, interpret common associations of rocks, structures and geomorphological features in the field.
  • Will have acquired subject knowledge and understanding in geological principles, terms, definitions and classifications.
  • Will have acquired subject knowledge and understanding in the structure, composition and history of the Earth/geological timescales.
  • Appreciation of the 3 dimensional nature of geology.
  • Familiarity with Earth Science literature and it's format.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills necessary to plan, conduct and report on mix of laboratory, computer and field projects.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills in order to apply geological principles and methodologies to the solution of familiar and unfamiliar problems.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills to observe, record accurately and account for geological features in the laboratory and in the field.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills to synthesise information/data from a variety of sources.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills to analyse, evaluate/interpret geological data.
  • Cross-section construction and geological map interpretation.
  • Writing skills.
Key Skills:
  • Receive and respond to a variety of information sources.
  • Communicate effectively to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical forms.
  • Prepare, process, interpret and present data using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and software packages.
  • Identify individual and collective goals and responsibilities.
  • 3 dimensional interpretation of Earth structures.

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

  • The module is delivered through a series of three-hour practical slots, day field trips and a residential field class (virtual study also available), supported by handouts and directed reading.
  • This method is preferred as it provides "hands on" learning and experience of acquiring practical fieldwork skills.
  • Summative assessment is made up of in-class assessments and field (or virtual) work performance assessments through which students can demonstrate practical skills.
  • Formative assessment is provided weekly during the practical sessions together with a formative class test.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Practicals 23 Weekly 3 Hours 69
Fieldwork / Virtual project 1 Annual 56 Hours 56
Tutorials 6 3 per term 1 Hour 6
Preparation and Reading 69
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Continual Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
In-class Assessments 50%
Field-course Assessment 50%

Formative Assessment:

1) Continual assessment of practical assignments; 2) Class test 3) A formative writing task will be set and assessed linked to the tutorials.

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