May 17, 2023 Issue #8

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: Kinematics-Spreadsheets 2023  May 20, 2023.  Are you interested in introducing computational ideas into your introductory physics class? Join us for this virtual, three-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: Poster Abstracts will be accepted until May 31, 2023.

Annual Participant Survey

Would you give us a few minutes of your time to help us continue to improve? We have developed a short survey with our grant’s external evaluators, Stephanie Chasteen and Miranda Chen Musgrove.

The participant survey is here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OPTYCs-2023

It will take 10-15 minutes to complete. Please submit by June 15.

Not only is your feedback helping us plan for the next year and beyond, it also provides the National Science Foundation with evidence that OPTYCs is accomplishing its goals. By showcasing successes and using our community to inform our plans, we will be in a stronger position to advocate for further financial support in the future.

Thank you in advance for your generosity in taking time to do this survey.

If you have any questions or concerns about the survey, feel free to reach out to Stephanie (stephanie.chasteen@icloud.com) or MIranda (miranda@gosheneducationconsulting.com).

Thank you for engaging with OPTYCs in our first year!

Kris’ corner

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

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

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

Active Learning, Metacognition, and Formative Assessments Support Student Learning

It turns out that many active learning strategies overlap with metacognitive and formative assessment tools. Productive active learning strategies can help students interrogate their own learning (“Does this information make sense? What questions do I have about this material? Is there a pattern I notice here?), and this metacognition is essential for learning. Use formative assessment tools regularly, both as a way to help your students build metacognition habits, and to inform your instructional approaches.

When using group activities, it is important that they involve cooperation and interdependency. Giving students agency and responsibility to the whole group improves commitment and thus learning.

Tip: Provide students with opportunities to ‘do science’. Perhaps provide a scenario or problem, and have students brainstorm possible relevant principles. Each principle becomes a ‘hypothesis’ for analyzing the scenario or solving the problem. Test out a hypothesis (apply a principle) and see where that solution leads. Frequently ask, “Does this make sense?” to help interrogate the process. If the hypothesis fails, it may be helpful to determine the reason: why was that particular physics principle not applicable to this scenario or problem?


Check out the list of workshops that will be offered at the Tandem Conference in July. Poster abstract submission is still open until May 31. 


Books & Articles

covers of handbooks

AIP Publishing has recently released three volumes of The International Handbook of Physics Education Research. These books include contributions from around the world on the teaching and learning of physics. According to the AIP Publishing blurbs the contents of the volumes are as follows:

The International Handbook of Physics Education Research: Learning Physics:

  • Subject matter instruction and problem solving with specific topics including factors in student achievement in physics.
  • Cognitive aspects to learning physics, including collaborative learning, higher order learning, and fostering critical thinking skills.
  • Information about student interest, attitudes, motivation, values, beliefs, and opinions toward learning physics.

The International Handbook of Physics Education Research: Teaching Physics:

  • Various teaching perspectives including active learning, the modeling method, and teaching environments.
  • Distance/online education, formative and summative assessment, and assessment in online education.
  • Gender, race, and ethnicity equity.

The International Handbook of Physics Education Research: Special Topics:

  • The history and philosophy of physics teaching, including a review of physics textbooks.
  • Teaching mathematics for physics students.
  • Methodologies in physics education research and the future of physics departments.

AIP members have the option of downloading the books in PDF (download by chapters is available) or purchasing a print copy 


PICUP Webinar: Various ways to use HTML5 simulations in a physics class. This webinar, hosted by PICUP, a partner of OPTYCs featured Andrew Duffy from Boston University. Duffy has published an extensive collection of HTML5 physics simulations that can be used at every level. You can explore his collection here.




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