Information in the Degree Programme Tables may still be subject to change in response to Covid-19

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
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 2021 will be delivered live. The lectures may or may not be in-person, depending on lecture environment circumstances, as the lecturer has underlying medical issues to consider. A blended learning environment will be employed as back-up.

Six themes will be developed, spaced over 8 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 exercises 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 divided into sections, or vignettes, that introduce and address key questions in each theme. Each vignette will culminate in one (or more) key questions that students will then be able to address through online exercises and reading of designated literature. Each theme will conclude with a short session that utilises the previously presented material and the students¿ learning to arrive at an understanding of the current state of knowledge 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 50-60 hours of independent reading and supplementary study, guided by the keynote papers provided and focussed on the central questions 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 2021/22, 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) Written Exam: 70%, Course Work: 30 %, Practical Exam: 0%.

Coursework (30%): consists of 10% calculation exercise and 20% short answer questions
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 the fifth week of the Course (week 6 of semester). There is a calculation-based exercise, and a short answer style question. The assessment exercises/questions will be based on material presented, developed and discussed in the first two themes with in the FEC course ¿ focussed on 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 the week in which the exercise is set. Answers to the coursework assessment (300 words maximum for each question) are to be submitted online via a submission box in the course LEARN site by 12noon on the Thursday of the week in which the assessment is set.

Written Examination 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. Details of mode of sitting the exam and submitting work if it is done remotely rather than in a formal exam setting will be provided when these issues are clarified.
Feedback -Each Theme is complemented by formative exercises or questions against which students can self-test and engage in peer-group discussion. These exercises 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 week-by-week 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 in an examination context.
Reading List
Harmon, R.S. & Parker, A. (2011). Frontiers in Geochemistry. Wiley-Blackwell. (Chapters 1 and 2).
Johnson, M.R.W. & 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.
White, W.M. (2013). Geochemistry. Wiley-Blackwell. (see especially Chapter 11: Geochemistry of the Solid Earth).
Numerous primary papers are also recommended, with several available on the course's LEARN site.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserProf Simon Harley
Tel: (0131 6)50 8547
Course secretaryMs Katerina Sykioti
Tel: (0131 6)50 5430
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information