March 8, 2023 Issue #3

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


Upcoming events

  • 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. 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.
    Poster Abstracts will be accepted until April 14, 2023.

Recent OPTYCs Events

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 the implications of expert-novice research:

For someone learning a new task, or about a new concept, much cognitive load goes into memory-based performance, or the ‘plug and chug’ method we often see done by our students. As instructors, our expert-like thinking allows us to shortcut many decision steps. So when we model solving a problem on the board, often students miss the nuances that we have subconsciously examined. No wonder students then rely on ‘plug and chug’!

We can help our students by being explicit in our decision-making. Often this requires the application of concepts, based on a hierarchy of knowledge. By elevating conceptual approaches to problem-solving, not just relying on equations and numbers, and by making obvious the organization of knowledge, we help our students move away from ‘novice’ and towards ‘expert’.

Tip: Take time to write down the concepts (use words, diagrams, graphs, etc). If students see you are using other forms of representation, they will do so too. But if students only see you write down equations and numbers (no matter what you say), they will mimic that behavior too.


Recent statistics from APS

Special collection from Physical Review Physics Education Research.

Article from Physics the online magazine from the American Physical Society.

See No Bias, Hear No Bias, Speak for No Change A study of the attitudes of progressive, white, male physicists suggests that their inaction in confronting biases contributes significantly to the problem of inequality in physics research. This article refers to an article by Melissa Dancy and Apriel Hodari: How well-intentioned white male physicists maintain ignorance of inequity and justify inaction

Books & Articles

In this book, Lillian McDermott gives her personal account of the history of building the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Washington,  Seattle, Washington. She also provides an outline of the growth of physics education research and chronicles her pioneering career as one of the few women in physics during the mid-20th century. The front matter, including the table of content can be found here. The first chapter: THE PATH TO PHYSICS EDUCATION RESEARCH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON is freely accessible here

A brief history of physics education in the United States This article by David E. Melzer and Valerie K. Otero outlines the history of physics education in the United States—and the accompanying pedagogical issues and debates—over
the period 1860–2014. 

500+ physicists endorse ‘Hyderabad Charter’ to close physics gender gap: According to one estimate, only 13% of physics faculty members in India are currently women.More than 500 students and practitioners of physics have endorsed the Hyderabad Charter to address and resolve gender gaps in physics education and research in India as of International Women’s Day this year

Resource Letter CP-3: Computational physics This Resource Letter includes 312 references and provides information and guidance for those looking to incorporate computation into their courses or to refine their own computational practice. 

The useful life of a physics teaching article According to the author “most publications have a useful life of about 20 years in The Physics Teacher and about 40 years in American Journal of Physics, then fade into relative obscurity.”

Fig. 1. Average views during the period from December 2016 to April 2022 of all papers in a selected issue, vs year of publication.

Designing STEM Courses for Today’s Students Forum hosted by The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Watch the Video



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