Linear Algebra -- Spring 2017

Questions and Answers About Portfolios

Q: Is the portfolio required?
A:
No. You can choose not to do one if you wish.

Q: How will not doing a portfolio affect my grade?
A:
If you do not do a portfolio, your grade will be based entirely (or almost entirely) on the exams. In this case, each midterm exam will count 1/3 of the total grade and you will get no direct credit for other work you may do in the course.

Q: How is the portfolio supposed to be organized?
A: 
It should be in a three ring binder, with four separate sections:

Class notes, handouts, assignment sheets, etc., should NOT be kept in the portfolio.  Use section dividers so I can easily turn to any section I wish to review.  All work should be placed on the rings of the binder, not in pockets, and should be in chronological order.  Your name should be visible on the outside of the binder.

Q: How are portfolios graded?
A:
I will review all portfolios at each midterm exam, and then make a cumulative review at the final exam.  The result will be an overall subjective evaluation made for each student, based on class participation and work throughout the semester. The portfolio is your main opportunity for documenting your work. An 'A' portfolio will show a consistent record of high quality work -- homework assignments done neatly, correctly, and on time, as well as class activities and exam corrections. I do not demand that you do every problem of every assignment, but I do expect to see a consistent investment of work throughout the course. Neatness and appearance also count. Aside from the added work for me to evaluate papers that are sloppy or hard to read, the neatness and appearance of your work has an impact on how that work is judged. If you turn in soiled, wrinkled pages, with ragged edges, and with many scratchouts and messy writing, or if you consistently are late handing in assignments, or if you leave many assignments undone or partially done, all of these detract from an impression of careful and diligent attention to the course.

Q: How many points are counted for each homework assignment, quiz, project, etc?
A:
There is no point system for this work. It all contributes to an overall impression of the quality of your efforts and accomplishments. Your portfolio grade is an overall judgment of your work for the semester, and takes into account all of the assigned work.

Q: When the portfolios are reviewed during exams, how does that figure into the portfolio grade?
A:
When I assign a final grade to the portfolio, I will take into consideration work over the whole course. The review comments I insert during exams help me distinguish between the student who consistently works throughout the semester, and one who simply crams at the end of the course to put as much as possible into a portfolio. If an early review indicates that improvements are needed, that doesn't necessarily count against you in the end, as long as you make the improvements indicated, and compile a significant record of good work over the entire semester. On the other hand, if you receive a consistent record of review comments indicating deficiencies in the portfolio, do not expect a high portfolio grade for the semester.

Q: What if I get a B on my portfolio but have an A average on exams?
A:
I never permit a portfolio grade to lower your course average. Your final grade will be based on whichever is higher: your average including the portfolio, or just your exam average alone.

Q: If the portfolio doesn't end up being counted, what is the point of doing it?
A: Grades are always an imperfect reflection of the experience of taking a course. The assignments in this course are supposed to give you an opportunity to learn the important ideas, concepts, and viewpoints, and to contribute to a rich intellectual experience. These activities are worthwhile for what you get by doing them. Taking the effort to organize them into a portfolio simply provides a means for you to demonstrate to others (me) what you have done. Moreover, making a consistent effort on assigned work should result in a higher exam average, and keeping that work organized should make it more useful for review and exam preparation. So, keeping up your portfolio has direct and indirect benefits beyond any specific points it contributes to your grade.