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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Formation and Evolution of Continents (EASC10080)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThe Formation and Evolution of Continents (FEC) course is multidisciplinary and integrative. The course integrates the magmatic, structural, metamorphic, sedimentary and geophysical features and concepts reflecting the operation of major physiochemical and tectonic processes in the Earth that have controlled its evolution since more than 4 billion years ago. FEC fosters a deep-Earth (solid Earth processes)/deep-time orientated view of the Earth and its differentiation, with a focus on the formation of the Earth¿s crust, culminating in the development and growth of continents.
Course description The Course in 2022 will be delivered live. A blended learning environment will be employed as back-up.
Six themes will be developed, spaced over 10 weeks of semester 1. Lecture presentations will be supported by live recordings, student exercises and reading focused on specific aspects of each theme, and brief live sessions that will link the lectures and exerises and go on to synthesise those for each theme. Students should engage with the thematic online presentations, the exercises and the live sessions for 4-5 hours each week.
Lectures will be structured to introduce and address key questions in each theme. Each lecture will culminate in one (or more) key questions that students will then be able to address through online exercises and/or reading of designated literature. Each theme will conclude with a short (live) session that utilises the previously presented material and the students¿ learning to arrive at an understanding of the current state of knowledge of the theme, including the outstanding questions that remain.
Each lecture is supported by powerpoint notes and each theme by keynote references that are selected to complement and extend the lecture content, provide further insights into concepts and models, and enhance student knowledge and appreciation of underlying data. These are deposited as pdfs on the LEARN site for the course, along with all lecture materials and background information.
The FEC course is designed to be ¿state-of-the-art¿ in terms of content. Hence, students are expected to engage in 60 hours of independent reading and supplementary study, guided by the keynote papers provided and focussed on the central qestions related to each theme and discussed in live Collaborate or Media Hopper sessions.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology (EASC09008) AND Structural Analysis of Rocks and Regions (SARR) (EASC09052)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesPassing of courses equivalent in content and level to those listed in the UoE prerequisites for this course.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  60
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 12, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 6, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 75 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 70 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assessment details
Written Exam: 70%, Course Work: 30 %, Practical Exam: 0%.
Coursework (30%): consists of 10% calculation exercise and 20% short answer question.
Written Exam (70%): essay
Details of the specific assessments will be provided during the course itself, but the essentials are given below
Coursework Assessment Component (30%)
The coursework assessment will take place in Week 6 of semester. It comprises two distinct parts: a calculation-based exercise, and a short answer style question. The assessment will be based on material presented, developed and discussed in the first two themes within the FEC course: the nature and composition of the continent crust, and the significance of arc processes in forming crust. Answers to the Calculation Exercise are to be submitted online via a submission box in the course LEARN site by 12noon on the Wednesday of Week 6 (Wednesday 26th October). Answers to the coursework assessment (500 words maximum) are to be submitted online via a submission box in the course LEARN site by 12noon on the Thursday of Week 6 (Thursday 27th October).
Written Examination (essay) Component (70%)
This will take the form of an essay-style examination sat in the December Examination diet. Students will answer one from a choice of three questions. The questions will be based on material developed and discussed within themes 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Feedback Each theme is complemented by formative exercises or questions against which students can self-test and engage in peer-group discussion. These exercises may include calculations that are later discussed and used in follow-up live sessions. The questions require short answers (one word to 3 sentences in typical length) and are designed to link specific features, processes or definitions within the themes. These questions form the basis of the thematic live discussions.
Definitive answers to formative exercises and questions related to each theme are provided on-line following the live discussions, or embedded in lecture notes, on a theme-by-theme basis.
A final thematic Q&A live session is scheduled for week 11. This will cover thematic areas from the whole course (crust composition, contributions to the crust, preserving crust orogeny, accretion and collision, isotopic constraints, secular evolution in tectonics, the earliest continents).
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Developed and enhanced their fundamental critical understanding of the operation of major physiochemical and tectonic processes in the Earth that have controlled its evolution, as manifested in the formation and growth of continents, over the past 4.0 billion plus years.
  2. Attained an integrated knowledge of the magmatic, structural, metamorphic, sedimentary and geophysical lines of evidence that inform our conceptual understanding of the physiochemical and tectonic processes that contribute to the formation and growth of continental crust.
  3. Developed an appreciation of how changes in the balance of these processes have shaped the Earth through time and influenced the growth, preservation and composition of continental crust.
  4. Enhanced their range of transferable skills in critical reading and synthesis of diverse data and sources.
  5. Developed their skills to address problems with originality and creativity and have translated this into clear and concise written work.
Reading List
Recommended reading
Arndt, N.T. (2013). Formation and Evolution of the Continental Crust. Geochemical Perspectives 2, 405-533.
Harmon, R.S. and Parker, A. (2011). Frontiers in Geochemistry. Wiley-Blackwell. (Chapters 1 and 2).
Johnson, M.R.W. and Harley, S.L. (2012). Orogenesis ¿ The Making of Mountains. Cambridge University Press. (Chapters 3, 5-7, 10, 12).
Rollinson, H. (2007). Early Earth Systems: A Geochemical Approach. Blackwell.
Van Kranendock, M.J, Bennett, V.C. and Hoffman, J.E. (2019). Earth¿s Oldest Rocks (2nd Edition). Elsevier.
White, W.M. (2013). Geochemistry. Wiley-Blackwell. (Chapter 11: Geochemistry of the Solid Earth).
White, W.M. (2015). Probing the Earth¿s Deep Interior through Geochemistry. Geochemical Perspectives 4, 251 pp.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information Course Syllabus
Theme 1: Key features of continents and continental crust - lines of evidence for structure, composition and age complexity. Geophyics, geochemistry and isotopic data.
Theme 2: Continental Crust Composition - Contributions (gains and losses) in recent plate tectonic settings. Significance of Arc magmatism and arc processes in generating crust.
Theme 3: Generating crust in deep time ¿ TTG suites and their origins. Model constraints on pre-plate tectonics and crust generation.
Theme 4: Orogens, metamorphism and growth ¿ accretion as a key facet; accretionary and collisional orogens; Metamorphism and the record of orogenic processes through time. Collision, Supercontinent cycles and the preservation issue.
Theme 5: Building continents - Lines of evidence. Understanding and using age and model age information. The issue of true growth and pulses versus preservation considered in the light of these data.
Theme 6: Continuity and episodicity in continental crustal growth, and implations for Earth processes. Secular change and the onset of plate tectonics. Concepts and evidence as to the nature of the pre-plate tectonic Earth.
Course organiserProf Simon Harley
Tel: (0131 6)50 8547
Course secretaryMr Johan De Klerk
Tel: (0131 6)50 7010
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