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Questions, Answers, and Definitions

What is a Golden State Examination (GSE) science portfolio?

A GSE portfolio is a collection of a student's science work, selected by the student with the help of the teacher over a period of time. It demonstrates what a student knows and can do in a number of different areas. It includes evidence that student work has been periodically revisited, updated, and evaluated. Student self-assessment is an integral part of the portfolio. The portfolio provides many opportunities for students to evaluate and revise their work before it is scored.

What are the benefits for individual students?

When students evaluate their own work, they gain a deeper understanding of the ideas studied, learn to recognize high quality work, and raise their own standard of performance. On the 1992-93 GSE, approximately 82% of the students who submitted GSE science portfolios improved their performance on the GSE. Additionally, the portfolio provides the opportunity for students to:

  • Learn and develop self-evaluation skills
  • Develop and express individual creativity
  • Use alternative approaches to mastering important science concepts
  • Enhance self-esteem
  • Develop independent as well as group working skills
  • Improve and revise work and receive recognition for their efforts
  • Receive credit for showing improvement in understanding of science over time
  • Focus learning on concepts and big ideas that are common to all sciences
  • Improve written communication skills

What are the benefits for you as a teacher?

  • Rich source of ideas to use for classroom instruction
  • Opportunity to use different techniques in the classroom
  • Increased opportunities for teacher networking, conversation, and collegiality with a statewide group of exemplary science teachers
  • Better self- and peer-evaluation by students

Will the portfolio create more work for teachers?

The majority of teacher work will be to adapt and modify existing assignments to fit the portfolio component requirements. Students should keep and revise this work on a regular basis. Students will assemble their best work for each component and complete final reflection sheets. Teachers will also need to provide:

  • Self-reflection Sheets for student practice
  • Student access to portfolios
  • Time for students to work with the teacher and others to revise their work
  • Performance standards and scoring guides to help students learn how to improve their work and strive for clearly specified standards


Entry: Student work that addresses one of the component requirements of the GSE science portfolio.

Component: Student-selected work that provides evidence of student accomplishment and fulfills the requirements of the GSE portfolio. There are only three components in the GSE science portfolio. They are: Problem-solving Investigation, Creative Expression, and Growth Through Writing.

Component requirements: Features that should be included in an entry: for example, in a Problem-solving Investigation, the student work must show that the student has designed part or all of the investigation and related the activity to a real-world situation. Self-reflection Sheet: An attachment to each portfolio entry that requires a student to reflect on what he or she has learned through the process of completing the entry. The Self-reflection Sheet highlights the attributes of the student's work and is an important guide to the scoring process. It emphasizes the need for students to objectively evaluate their own work.

Revision: The revisiting of a piece of student work with the intent to correct and improve the demonstration of scientific understanding. Teacher prompt: The specific instructions for a portfolio entry given by the teacher. Teacher prompts should be broad enough to help students fulfill all of the requirements. Collaborative group/collaboration: Working with one or more students, teachers, parents, research scientists, or community members to develop or perform science investigations, creative projects, or research papers. The collaboration should be meaningful, i.e., enhance the individual student's understanding of the relevant processes or conceptual content of science.

Scientific concept: For the purposes of the GSE Science Portfolio, a concept is an integrated set of scientific ideas, observations, or principles that together explain phenomena or patterns in nature. Below is a series of examples to illustrate how observations and individual ideas can be drawn together into a cohesive explanation of a concept, then expressed through a student's portfolio work. Note that a concept is not expressed as a single term but rather as a unifying set of ideas.

Example 1

Student Portfolio Work

The student constructs a model of a stream bed, experiments with different amounts of water running through it over an extended period of time, describes the outcome, and makes predictions about further patterns.

Unifying GSE Science Concept

Physical forces change the surface of the earth. The constant pressure of water passing through the river bed moves solid materials in the stream bed. Seasonal variations and severe weather conditions can dramatically affect the pressure and subsequently change the patterns and the rate at which change occurs in the streambed.


    Passing small amounts of water through the model creates a curvy pattern. Passing a large amount of water through rapidly eliminated some of the curves in the stream.


    In an integrated science and social science lesson students discuss the advantages and disadvantages of locating a new community near a river.

Related Principles, Relevant Facts and Terms, Single Concepts

Amount of erosion varies with the season; change over time; geologic evolution; sedimentation.

Example 2

Student Portfolio Work

The student creates a picture book to explain to a 5th grader why fevers make her feel so awful.

Unifying GSE Science Concept

Humans like all organisms, need to maintain a steady state of internal operation. This state of homeostasis is especially important of our enzymes are to work. Enzymes work best in certain temperatures and pH levels. If our body temperature gets too high, for example, our metabolic reactions are affected. That is why you don't feel well when you have a "fever."


    "When I got the flu my temperature was very high. But after the fever 'broke' I felt better."


    • Detergents that use enzymes as "cleaning agents" are often most effective in a very specific temperature range.

    • Drugs are used to moderate body temperature to aid recovery and make people feel better.

Related Principles, Relevant Facts and Terms, Single Concepts

Homeostasis; steady state; enzyme specificity; equilibrium; "fevers help you get better."

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