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This glossary offers basic working definitions of key terminology related to equity and inclusive teaching and learning in higher education. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list. References cited are listed in the Additional Resources section of the Equity Toolkit.


"An active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group."


"Some form of focused and sustained action, which includes inter-cultural, inter-faith, multi-lingual and inter-abled (i.e., differently abled) communities with the intent to change a system or an institutional policy, practice, or procedure which has racist effects." (Anti-racism digital library


A way of life for a group of people – includes values, behaviors, beliefs, norms, symbols, customs, communication styles, etc. Numerous dominant and non-dominant cultures exist in higher education that influence inclusive teaching and learning.

Culturally Relevant Teaching/Culturally Responsive Teaching:

Processes and practices designed to achieve equitable educational outcomes for all students by honoring their diverse cultural backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences (Gay, 20010; Ladson-Billings, 1992).


Individual differences (e.g., personality, learning styles, and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, and ability as well as cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations). (Association of American College and Universities, 2015).

Dominant Identitiy:

Category of a social identity that automatically provides access to power, opportunity, and privilege (Tatum, 2000)


grounded in the principle of fairness, equity refers to striving intentionally to provide all students what they need to succeed in college, regardless of their social identities. Efforts for equity include analyzing and revising structural barriers and investing in proven equity-minded policies, practices, and processes.


a socially-constructed identity category that divides humans into social groups based on cultural characteristics (e.g, language, values, ancestral background, geographic context, and behaviors).

Equity Mindedness:

"…refers to the perspective or mode of thinking exhibited by practitioners who call attention to patterns of inequity in student outcomes. These practitioners are willing to take personal and institutional responsibility for the success of their students, and critically reassess their own practices. It also requires that practitioners are race-conscious and aware of the social and historical context of exclusionary practices in American Higher Education."


The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity—in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect—in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.

Inclusive Pedagogy:

A comprehensive approach to teaching and learning that acknowledges and respects students’ varying, complex life experiences by valuing diversity and engaging in equity-oriented practices in the classroom (Tuitt, 2003).


Refers to complex, cumulative dynamics of discrimination for individuals who are members of more than one minoritized group (e.g., Native American women or white gay men with disabililties). Intersectionality emphasizes that discriminations based on two or more identities (e.g., racism, sexism, abelism, classism, etc.) can intersect to create something qualitatively distinct from any single -ism. Legal scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (1991) introduced this concept based on black women’s experiences being black and female.

Marginalized Identity:

Category of social identity that is likely to experience oppression or marginalization in mainstream society (Tatum, 2000).


". . .brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults toward people on the basis of a social " (Sue, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, & Esquelin, 2007, p. 217).


Refers to how members of groups in society are mistreated or discriminated against because of their social identity. "Minoritized" challenges traditional use of the noun "minority," which refers to persons, places or things that are fewer numerically than a majority and/or are considered subordinate to dominant (majority) groups. "Minoritized" also provides an appropriate qualifier for members of groups who previously comprised less than half of populations but currently are in the majority

Opportunity Gap:

"refers to the ways in which race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English proficiency, community wealth, familial situations, or other factors. . . perpetuate lower educational aspirations, achievement, and attainment for certain groups of students." Glossary of Education Reform


the exercise of authority or power in a cruel or unjust manner; an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed, and the feeling of being heavily burdened mentally, emotionally, and physically; the exploitation of one social group by another for its own benefit—real or imagined; it is a systematic social phenomenon based on the difference between social groups involving institutional control and cultural domination over the oppressed group (


An unearned benefit or right granted to a person based on membership in a particular social group based on dominant identities in social identity categories such as race, ethnicity, gender, social class, sexuality, ability, and so forth) (Allen, 2011).


Any action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview—the ideology that humans may be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called "races"; that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural and behavioral features; and that some races are innately superior to others. Since the late 20th century the notion of biological race has been recognized as a cultural invention, entirely without scientific basis."

Socially Constructed Identities:

Categories created to "label" or "categorize" people (e.g., race/ethnicity, sex/gender, gender identity, nationality, age, sexual orientation, ability, and religion) based on dominant societal beliefs (not biology) about groups of people (Allen, 2011; Adams & Bell, 2007)