May 31, 2023 Issue #9

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.



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! 

Upcoming events

  • Workshop: LaTeX 2023 Workshop -


  • 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 TODAY May 31, 2023.

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)

Students’ Perceptions of Their Learning and Exam Preparedness

Students are poor judges of their own learning; research indicates that poorly-prepared students vastly overestimate their readiness for an exam. They believe that low-effort tasks (e.g. highlight text, re-reading notes, making summaries) are effective study strategies. Research also indicates that a poor exam performance does not result in changed habits; instead, students mistakenly believe they just need to devote more time using the same ineffective strategies. To encourage students to change their habits, guidance must be clear and explicit.

Present students with a summary of evidence-based effective study strategies; these include: distributed practice in many short sessions (don’t cram); gauge preparedness using old tests under exam-like conditions (without notes and timed), then focus on areas that require more learning; reflections about key principles and procedures after successfully solving a problem; reflections about exam preparation strategies they used, and what specific aspects they will change to improve their performance on the next exam (beyond ‘spend more time studying’). As a bonus, you can use this summary later, when students ask, “How can I improve?”

Tip: Use a post-exam reflection assignment: have students identify homework or in-class problems that were similar to those on an exam, and describe the similarities (principles and processes) and identify differences, as well as ask them to re-solve the exam question while indicating what conceptual errors were made in their original solution.


DataPoints: Students’ college costs this year

Books, Articles, & Videos

This new book from the Harvard Publishing group is described by the publisher as

An incisive study of the mechanisms reinforcing the underrepresentation of women of color in STEM fields and a call for systemic change to address the imbalance.[...]

Ong also shows how aids such as student support programs, peer groups, allies, and mentors, which are centered on the individual, can go only so far toward a sustainable solution. In order to provide equitable opportunities, she argues, greater work must be done to dismantle institutional norms and replace them with a culture of inclusion

Encouraging a new community: Physicists advocate for getting community college students involved in research. This article from Symmetry a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication describes efforts and challenges encountered by TYC physics professors to incorporate research in their courses.

“Getting two-year college students involved with research is normally pretty difficult because they are often laser-focused on getting on with their academic careers,” says Tom Carter, a physics professor at College of DuPage. 

Related white paper: Enhancing HEP research in predominantly undergraduate institutions and community colleges

Comparing introductory undergraduate physics learning and behavior before and after the COVID-19 pandemic The main conlusion of this paper is that "student achievement, attendance rates, and assignment completion rates were largely unchanged after the pandemic."

PICUP Spring Webinar Series: Exploring the Intersection of Physics Education and AI: The Role of ChatGPT



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