February 22, 2023 Issue #2

SPOTLIGHT, is the OPTYCs bi-weekly newsletter. It brings you updates on the activities of OPTYCs, highlights from recent publications related to physics education, physics education research, and general news related to Two-Year colleges as well as links to various resources.  Learn more about OPTYCs here.


Upcoming events

  • Virtual conference: What is PERC? February 24, 2023. This session will provide some background into the  Physics Education Research Conference, organized every year in conjunction with the AAPT summer meeting, and ways in which the TYC community can participate.
  • Workshop: Team Up Together & TYCs. March 11,2023. Team up Together is a collective action initiative of the AIP federation, led by American Institute of Physics, American Association of Physics Teachers, American Astronomical Society, American Physical Society and the Society of Physics Students to support the scientific community to take the next bold step in doubling the number of African American students earning physics and astronomy bachelor’s degrees annually by 2030. Join this workshop  to learn more and find out how you can be involved in making physics a more inclusive endeavor!
  • Virtual conference: Mechanics and E&M Assessment Tools A March 31, 2023. An overview of some of the most popular research-supported assessment tools.
  • Workshop: Interactive Video-Enhanced Tutorials (IVET)  April 22, 2023. In this workshop, you will learn about the underlying design for the IVETs, a brief overview of the research findings that demonstrate their effectiveness, and you will have the opportunity to work through several examples.
  • Workshop: Embedding Equity-Mindedness in Physics Questions May 12, 2023. In this 1-hour workshop, you will see how equity-based questions can be asked in your physics classes. Participants will see some examples, and have the opportunity to brainstorm and discuss other physics topics where equity-based questions can be asked.


  • Facilitating Accessibility in STEM for Students with Disabilities at TYCs. This is a  project to create a community of practice where STEM faculty can share knowledge and techniques that make their classes more accessible to all students.
  • AAPT-TYC Tandem Conference. Saturday, July 15, 2023 Sacramento, CA, AAPT National Summer Meeting. A one-day event that brings together faculty teaching physics, astronomy, and physical science at two-year colleges to share ideas, learn from each other, and build community.
    Proposals for presentations will be accepted until February 28, 2023

Recent OPTYCs Events

Friday, February 03, 2023: Panel discussion on the historical contributions of TYC to PER - History of TYC Contributions to PER

Kris' corner

From Kris Lui, Director of OPTYCs.

From The Science of Learning Physics: Cognitive Strategies for Improving Instruction

By Jose P. Mestre & Jennifer L. Docktor, World Scientific (2021)

On forming concepts and fixing broken ones:

To truly learn a new concept, we (all learners) need to have many experiences and in multiple forms, especially if we are to appreciate associated subtleties. We can only learn to apply new concepts with practice, so using formative assessments in class frequently can help gauge progress. Progress is not monotonic, nor is it linear; we will revert to misconceptions often, and by identifying and addressing such misconceptions quickly, we revert less and less.

So check on your students’ understanding in multiple ways, and many times. Know that a correct answer once does not necessarily mean a correct understanding always. Learning is a messy process!

Tip: Instead of having students provide a solution, have students decide what concept is appropriate in a given scenario. This can be done as a quick multiple-choice exercise, or a short (ungraded) written response.


Survey says

The Statistical Research Center of the American Institute of Physics published a year ago a report titled Initial Employment - Physics Bachelors and PhDs Classes of 2019 and 2020. Here are some key highlights about physics bachelors:

What were physics bachelors (classes of 2019 and 2020) doing one year after graduation?

The report also provides historical data going back to 1996

What sectors employed physics graduates from 2019 and 2020?

What were the fields of employment?

What skills were used by these physics bachelors in the private sector?

What were the salaries for these graduates?

Books & Articles

From the jacket: “This book offers a collection of practical, research-based strategies for designing and teaching courses as well as assessing students’ learning”.  This was published in 2016 by Richard M. Felder , professor emeritus of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University, and Rebecca Brent, president of Education Designs, Inc. a North Carolina consulting firm. The book was reviewed in Education in Chemistry  and in Physics Today.

Breaking the Stigma around Community College: an astro[sound] bite Two astrophysicists,, Kiersten Boley, NSF Graduate Research Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at The Ohio State University,  and Sabrina Berger, Ph.D. student at the University of Melbourne, share their experiences starting their college education in a community college. Kiersten Boley attended Georgia Highlands College and Sabrina Berger attended Diablo Valley College.

You can also listen to their interviews on astro[sound]bites:

ChatGPT: Transforming Physics Education? In this blog post Philip Moriarty of the University of Nottingham recounts  his experience  using ChatGPT to solve physics problems and offers some perspectives on how this new tool may affect physics education.  A video of his interaction with ChatGPT was posted on the popular YouTube channel Sixty Symbols



The work of OPTYCs is supported by NSF-DUE-2212807.