April 19, 2023 Issue #6

SPOTLIGHT is the OPTYCs bi-weekly newsletter. It brings you OPTYCs activity updates, highlights from recent publications related to physics education, and news & resources for Two-Year colleges.


Upcoming events

  • 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. 
  • Workshop: Kinematics-Spreadsheets 2023  May 20, 2023.  Are you interested in introducing computational ideas into your introductory physics class? Join us for this virthree-hour workshop on teaching kinematics using spreadsheets! During this workshop, you'll be introduced to computational tools available in spreadsheets, and work on creating and/or modifying examples for your own use. This workshop is a collaboration between PICUP and OPTYCs.


  • 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.
    NOTE (date change): Poster Abstracts will be accepted until May 31, 2023.

AAPT Awards

These awards were presented at 2023 AAPT WM in Portland, OR.

Kris’ corner

Tips, summaries, and musings from Kris Lui (OPTYCs Director).

From What the Best College Teachers Do

By Ken Bain, Harvard University Press (2004)

You don’t teach a class; you teach a student.


Enrollment at Community Colleges Is Stabilizing. The Growing Presence of High-School Students Is Why.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on Dual-enrollment trends within Community Colleges. Here are some highlights.

For a more detailed analysis: “What Happened to Community College Enrollment During the First Years of the Pandemic? It Depends on the Students’ Age”

Books & Articles

book coverThis report surveys a broad range of literature on models of undergraduate research opportunities offered to students in STEM disciplines. It also makes a series of recommendations to improve the current state of affairs.  The book can be read online or downloaded for free here. Ebook versions can also be purchased.


Math in Physics

Since 2021, Joe Redish (University of Maryland) has been publishing a series of articles on “Using Math in Physics”. The first article appeared in The Physics Teacher in April 2021. The latest installment has been posted on arXiv in March of this year.The series provides valuable insights on the role mathematics play in physics education with examples and suggestions for classroom use.

  1. Using Math in Physics: Overview
  2. Using Math in Physics: 1. Dimensional Analysis
  3. Using Math in Physics: 2. Estimation
  4. Using Math in Physics: 3. Anchor equations
  5. Using Math in Physics: 4. Toy models
  6. Using Math in Physics: 5. Functional dependence
  7. Using Math in Physics: 6. Reading the physics in a graph


World's Strongest Magnet! An entertaining and informative video on The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee from Derek Muller at Veritasium. 

Screenshot of youtube video



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