Learning outcomes of the course unit
At the end of the course, the students will be able to apply their knowledge and skills to understanding so as to:
identify, by examination of hand samples and thin sections, the three principal groups of rocks (igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary) outcropping on the Earth’s surface;
explain why a variety of igneous and metamorphic rocks built the Earth’s crust and upper mantle and how these rocks form.
In addition, the students will demonstrate their communication and learning skills critically explaining the geologic history of igneous and metamorphic rocks and their origin within the different Earth’s plate tectonic settings.
Course contents summary
Basic methods used to describe and identify hand specimens of the Earth’s crust and mantle rocks (i.e., igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks).
Optical mineralogy methods used to identify the common rock-forming minerals in thin section, by use of polarizing optical microscope.
Classification of the magmatic, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks according to their mineral content and texture, following the schemes proposed by the International Union of Geological Sciences.
The course provides the fundamental concepts concerning how igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks form and address processes that govern the rocks formation within the context of plate tectonics. This is the sequence of course topics:
The Earth: formation; internal structure; cooling and “Plate Tectonics”; how the igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks form; the “Rock cycle”.
Igneous rocks: the causes of partial melting of the Earth’s mantle and crust; the “Phase Diagrams”; the physical properties of magma; processes associated with magma ascent and solidification in the Earth’s crust; mode of occurrence; classification; igneous rocks and their Plate Tectonic setting.
Sedimentary rocks (an introduction): how the different types of sediments form; classification; sedimentary rocks and their Plate Tectonic setting.
Metamorphic rocks: solid-state reactions; metamorphic reactions; textures; classification: metamorphic grade and Facies; the Barrow’s metamorphic Zones; graphical representation of metamorphic reactions; Plate Tectonic setting of the metamorphic Facies.
Klein C., Philpotts A. (2017), EARTH MATERIALS: introduction to mineralogy and petrology, 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press
Klein C., Philpotts A. (2018), Mineralogia e petrografia (edizione italiana). Zanichelli
A. Peccerillo & D. Perugini (2003). Introduzione alla Petrografia ottica. Morlacchi Ed., Perugia
The 12 credits of this course amount to a total of 120 hours, distributed as follows: 80 hours of laboratory-based exercises and 40 hours of lectures. In the laboratory part, the student perform exercises on the identification of hand specimens of rocks and a strong training on the use of the microscope; formative evaluation will be done informally with discussions during each lesson, in order to check how much students have been understood. Written evaluations will be carried out periodically, in order to monitor the achievement of the training objectives. The teacher uses PowerPoint files that display the sequence of course topics.
In the hours of lectures, the teacher uses PowerPoint files that display the sequence of course topics. Formative evaluation will be done informally with discussions during each lesson, in order to check how much students have been understood.
Assessment methods and criteria
The exam is made of a written part and an oral part.
In the written part, the student describes the mineral assemblage and the texture observed in 3 thin sections (1 for a intrusive igneous rock; 1 for an effusive igneous rock; 1 for a metamorphic rock), using microscope techniques; then, by using this petrographic information, the student classifies the rock. The written part will also be carried out during the course. The minimum score to pass the written part is 18/30.
After the correction of the written part, the student takes the oral part of the exam. This part is made of:
a review of the written part, in which the student is informed about the correction criteria and supply clarifications that may modify the judgment;
an illustration and discussion of the course topics, covered by answers to review questions, in order to evaluate the level of the learning outcomes.