GES 80 Rant

Wednesday, 2003-12-17; 02:02:00

A rant about the class with which. I'm glad I'm over.

[UPDATE: Just a random question that's been bugging me. Can anybody tell me the song that sounds really similar to this tune? The part that I'm interested in starts at about 5:23 remaining -- the main melody. At 5:12 it's not similar anymore. But it's definitely very similar to some song up until that point. Arg! (The melody repeats itself further into the music, as well.)]

Grr. GES 80 -- the bane of my existence during last quarter. Be forewarned, I'm going off on a rant on this class, and I'm sure some of you have already heard it. So feel free to skip it if you have.

I have to say, as a class, I was really disappointed with GES 80. Overall, it was an undervalued class in terms of credits (4 instead of the 5 like it should've been -- not that it really matters, though), and it took up probably a third or more of my time during the quarter, which is more than any other class. On top of that, the lecture portion was at 9 AM. That's a horrid time for such a class as GES 80.

(In case you didn't know, GES 80 is the Rocks & Minerals class which is billed as the hardest course of the GES major. You learn all about how minerals and rocks are formed, and you also learn to identify minerals in hand samples and to identify and classify rocks as you look at them in your hand, based on chemical composition, structure, and texture. It's a grueling class. I actually got a B-, but my bone-pickings with this class go much deeper than just the grade I got.)

The thing that REALLY astounds me is that the GES 80 class has been pared down from what it was last year. Apparently, last year, the class had to learn about twice as many minerals, and they had twice as many labs (i.e.: two labs per week). As it is, I wasn't able to complete the labs in the three hours allotted each week, so I would have to come back some other day to finish it up. I can't imagine having to do two such labs each week. That just sounds like way too much work. And last year they STILL taught this class in one quarter!

What's really bad about this is that GES 80 is the class that is supposed to lay the groundwork for all of your other geology studies. Identifying rocks in hand samples, and knowing the possible histories of a given rock is very important when doing research and when learning about other topics. So why does the geology department want to cram this all into one quarter? It seems like it would be beneficial if it was spread out into at least TWO quarters.

As it is, this quarter, I didn't feel really confident in my abilities to identify minerals in hand samples, and I definitely wasn't confident in naming rocks. I think I would have benefitted from labs being more focused on helping us actually identify the rock, and learn exactly how to see the different characteristics of the minerals, so that I would have a much more solid grounding when identifying minerals. Instead, we were given just a bit of instruction on the different characteristics, and then we spent THREE WHOLE LABS just writing down the different characteristics of a bunch of different minerals. At the start, I tried to write down the characteristics of each mineral (stuff like cleavage -- if the mineral breaks on well-defined planes; hardness; color; luster -- if the mineral is shiny, dull, waxy, earthy; etc.) by actually looking at the mineral itself, but I quickly realized that I would never get finished if I did it that way. Furthermore, some of the characteristics of a mineral are not necessarily apparent, which is much more frustrating. So I basically ended up looking at a book to find the mineral characteristics, and then wrote them down. I don't think that's a very good way of learning to identify minerals.

The other thing is that the lab handouts and the homework assignments were VERY poorly worded. As a result, I often had many questions that resulted in making the lab or homework take much longer than it should have, and resulted in me not fundamentally understanding the question. For example, in one of the assignments, we were supposed to characterize the unit cells of different tessellations by M.C. Escher, just so we could familiarize ourselves with the concept when dealing with minerals. But the correct answers were just saying whether the unit cell was a rectangle or a square, not saying monoclinic, triclinic, etc. I actually asked one of the T.A.s about that, and he said the monoclinic/triclinic answers would be fine. I got docked 6 points just for that -- not that I particularly care, since homework assignments weren't worth that much in the class -- but I mean seriously... I think I can tell when a unit cell is a square or a rectangle. We even had to outline the actual unit cells on the homework, so it was obvious that I understood it was a square or a rectangle. It's just that the assignment was a bit contrived so it wasn't clear that we shouldn't use the monoclinic/triclinic designations.

The class was full of annoying little things like that. As it came closer and closer to the end of the quarter, I realized that I was more intent on just finishing the damned class instead of actually learning the material, which isn't something you want students to do in a class. The other effect it had is that I didn't really learn as much as I could have.

Not to say that the class was entirely useless. I did learn a lot of things in that class. But I just think that the class could be structured in a MUCH better way so as to make it more conducive to learn the stuff. It's just ridiculous that they rush us through all this stuff, when this is really the foundation of the rest of our geology careers.

*sigh* Stupid class. At least it's over.

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