March 22, 2023 Issue #4

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

  • 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.
  • Mini-workshop: Using Data Explorer to Analyze FCI Data. April 28, 2023. Participants will learn how to take advantage of  PhysPort’s Data Explorer to analyze data from the Force Concept Inventory and similar assessment tools.
  • 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.


  • 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. 

OPTYCs Programs

Mentorship: OPTYCs administers a mentoring and networking matching program specifically designed for TYC Faculty teaching physics-related disciplines. This includes 

  • vertical mentoring, in which someone with more experience (the mentor) helps, guides, or coaches someone with less experience (the mentee). 
  • horizontal mentoring also known as peer or mutual mentoring, horizontal mentoring allows groups to help each other by building a safe and supportive community.

If you would like to participate, you can login or register to create a mentorship application.

Kris' corner

From Kris Lui, Director of OPTYCs.

From What the Best College Teachers Do

By Ken Bain, Harvard University Press (2004)

On preparing to teach:

Some questions to ask yourself as you prepare a course:

  1. How will I find out what they know already and what they expect from the course, and how will I reconcile any differences between my expectations and theirs?
  2. How will I find out how students are learning before assessing them, and how will I provide feedback before – and separate from – any assessment of them?
  3. How will I create a safe environment in which students can try, fail, receive feedback, and try again?


OPTYCs and the American Institute of Physics Statistical Research are collaborating to conduct a comprehensive survey about TYC physics. Results are anticipated in 2025. The last TYC survey was published in 2012. Here are some highlights from that report

2011 Data

Books & Articles

According to its description, this book is a collection that expands an understanding of gendered participation in physics from a binary gender deficit model to a more complex understanding of gender as performative and intersectional with other social locations (e.g., race, class, LGBT status, ability, etc). A preview including the table of contents and the first chapter is available  “Why do we need identity in Physics Education Research


This is another collection of articles, mostly from Germany, that provides a comprehensive overview of the theoretical background and practice of physics teaching and learning and assists in the integration of highly interesting topics into physics lessons. You can read the table of contents and the first chapter “Topics of Physics Education and Connections to Other Sciences” 

This book is part of a Springer collection titled “Challenges in Physics Education” More books with previews are accessible here

Examining reasons undergraduate women join physics This paper analyzes survey responses collected at the 2015 and 2019 Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) to provide insight into reasons women join physics that could be used to attract more women to the field. The authors find that by far the most common reason women join physics is intrinsic value, meaning that physics is inherently worth studying. They also find that students who join for the intrinsic value of the physics community are much less likely to remain in physics after finishing their undergraduate work. The paper is part of an ongoing research project to create a full picture of the qualities that enable women to keep pursuing physics through their undergraduate and professional careers.

Relating students’ social belonging and course performance across multiple assessment types in a calculus-based introductory physics 1 course. The authors of this study investigated the effect of social belonging on students’ performance across two Introductory Physics 1 sections with two variations of final assessment: one section that took a traditional final exam and one section that completed a nontraditional final course project. They found that both students’ sense of belonging and belonging uncertainty impacted their final assessment score, regardless if they took the traditional final exam or completed the nontraditional final project.

Community College Transfers To Four-Year Colleges Tumbled Almost 8% Last Fall This Forbes Magazine article reviews data included in the Transfer and Progress: Fall 2022 Report  from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC). Some of the key findings:

  • Transfers from a two-year college to a four-year institution was off 7.5%, a decline of 37,600 students. Since the fall of 2020, upward transfers are now down by 14.5%, or about 78,500 students.
  • Reverse transfers, in which four-year students transfer into two-year colleges, showed a slight increase of 1% or 1,700 more students
  • The lateral transfer increase was a slight .3% (about 600 more students) between two-year colleges. Lateral transfers among four-year students increased by 2.0%, equating to a gain of 6,000 students.
  • In fall 2022, 82.0% of transfers with a liberal arts major changed that major when they transferred compared to 55.7% for non-liberal arts majors.
  • Transfers by women decreased by 3.5%, more than the .7% decrease for men
  • The pandemic had little impact on the six-year completion rate of baccalaureate degrees earned by the community college cohorts that began in 2014 (32.8%), 2015 (34.5%), or 2016 (34.9%).
  • Students from the most affluent 20% of U.S. households dominated the upward and lateral transfer pathways into the most selective four-year institutions in the country, accounting for almost half of them. By contrast, students from the lowest income quintile make up no more than 5.0% of either upward or lateral transfers into these colleges.

Some good signs for enrollments in two states According to this article from the Community College Daily:

  • The Illinois Community College System reported a spring-to-spring enrollment increase of 7.2%, from a headcount of 233,041 in spring 2022, to 249,836 this spring — the first such increase in five years.
  • In North Carolina, enrollment among adult learners (older than age 25) in the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) increased by 10% from 2020 to 2022, jumping from 171,759 to 189,004.

Physics Education for the Incarcerated An interview with Erin Flowers who adapts laboratory courses for incarcerated students. Published in Physics Magazine.

Physics with Elliot This website and its accompanying YouTube Channel received a very positive review from Dan MacIsaac in the February edition of The Physics Teacher



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