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Adler University

Inclusive, Socially Just Teaching: Glossary

Find resources to guide your approach to classroom approaches

Relevant Terms

Ableism - “a system that places value on people's bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence, excellence, and productivity.” -- Talila Lewis and Dustin Gibson. Refers to social structures that favor able-bodied people.

Ally - A person who takes action against oppression out of a belief that eliminating oppression will benefit members of targeted groups and advantage groups. Allies acknowledge disadvantage and oppression of other groups than their own, take supportive action on their behalf, commit to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of these groups, and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression. (Center for Assessment and Policy Development)

Antisemitism - "...a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits." Developed by the Plenary in Bucharest, quoted on Holocaust Remembrance Alliance website.

Cisgender - A gender identity where an individual’s self-perception and identification of their gender aligns with their sex assigned at birth.

Classism - Policies, practices, biased attitudes and beliefs that result in, and help to justify, unequal distribution of wealth and unfairly treat poor individuals or groups because of their socioeconomic grouping. 

Classroom climate - “the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical environments in which our students learn. Climate is determined by a constellation of interacting factors that include faculty-student interaction, the tone instructors set, instances of stereotyping or tokenism, the course demographics (for example, relative size of racial and other social groups enrolled in the course), student-student interaction, and the range of perspectives represented in the course content and materials” (Ambrose et. al., 2010, p. 170).

Colonialism - Control over the territory and behaviors of one group of people by another; occupying territory with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

Content - course materials, examples, analogies and metaphors, case studies and project assignments used in a course.  (Ambrose et al. 2010).

Disability - "... a difference in the way a person moves, communicates, feels, and/or processes information. It’s a difference in the way they complete the tasks of daily life. There’s nothing inherently positive or negative about disability. It’s a form of human diversity.” -- The Nora Project. Disability is a broad category, and encompasses psychological and mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety, and PTSD), medical and chronic diseases (e.g., HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, long COVID), physical, visual, hearing, sensory, developmental (e.g., autism), and learning disabilities (e.g., ADHD, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder).

Equity - The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are excluded, underserved, and underrepresented populations.

Heterosexism - Social structures and practices which serve to elevate and enforce heterosexuality while subordinating or suppressing other forms of sexuality.

Intersectionality - refers to how various nodes of identity-- typified but not limited to race and gender-- work in concert to engender and perpetuate systems of oppression.

Learning Outcomes - measurable statements that articulate at the beginning what students should know, be able to do, or value as a result of taking a course or completing a program

Microaggressions - brief, commonplace, often daily, verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religious slights and insults to ae target person or group (Sue, 2010). Microaggressions affect students' ability to learn; create a hostile and invalidating campus or work climate (Rowe, 1990; Solórzano et al., 2000); and lower productivity and problem-solving abilities (Cadinu et al., 2005; Dovidio, 2001; Salvatore & Shelton, 2007).

Racial Microaggressions are subtle, innocuous, preconscious, or unconscious degradations, putdowns, verbal and kinetic - e.g., staring, averted gazes, gestures, exasperated looks, and body language - that convey fear, condescension, hostility that is rooted in antiBlackness. The cumulative burden of a lifetime of microaggressions can contribute to augmented morbidity and flattened confidence (Pierce, 1995). 

Gender Microaggressions devaluate women’s contributions, objectify them as sex objects, dismiss their accomplishments, and limit their effectiveness in social, educational, employment, and professional settings (Banjo & Greenwald, 1995; Benokraitis, 1997; Morrison & Morrison, 2002).

Sexual-Orientation Microaggressions thematically contain overt and covert messages that include seeing LGBTs in a narrow sexual way, exposing them to homophobia, heterosexist language, religious concepts of sinfulness, to beliefs of abnormality, and to invalidations of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, which are central to healthy sexual identities (Sue, 2010).

Microinvalidations (often unconscious) exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings or experiential reality (Sue, 2010).


Oppression - The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression signifies a hierarchical relationship in which dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups. The video below defines prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination and how these become oppressive when combined with systemic and institutional power

Privilege - Power and advantages benefiting a group derived from the historical oppression and exploitation of other groups.

Racism - Individual and institutional practices and policies based on the belief that the socially define white race is superior to others. This results in depriving non-white groups of civil liberties, rights and other resources, hindering opportunities for social, educational and political advancement. It also refers to a system of advantage based on race; a system of oppression based on race. A way of organizing society based on dominance and subordination based on race.

#SayTheWord: It is important as educators we use the term “disability” rather than euphemisms such as “special needs,” “differently abled,” etc. Read more about the psychological importance of Saying the Word “Disability.” Remember that shorthand terms like “ADA” or “504” are only representing laws, not an identity.


Inclusive Pedagogical Approaches

Antiracist Pedagogy

Going beyond the simple inclusion of multiculturism in teaching material, antiracist pedagogy is a paradigm within Critical Pedagogy and Critical [Race] Theory that delineates the pervasiveness and impacts of racism both inside and outside of the classroom (Blakeney, 2011). It provides the space and gives adequate attention not only to discourses and conversations that bring consciousness to whiteness and white privilege within the class (Kishimoto, 2018; Utt & Tochluk, 2020), but also allows for the centralization of such discourses upon the standpoint, perspective, and voices of BIPOC students (Brookfield, 2014; Vanhouwe, 2007).

It aims at "…achieving equal educational outcomes for college students from racial and ethnic groups that have a history of enslavement, colonization, or oppression in or by the United States, relative to groups that have not experienced such conditions." (Bensimon et al., 2007, p.5)

Applying the praxis method of critical pedagogy, educators facilitate opportunities for critical discourse around how content and systems create and maintain oppressive and discriminatory attitudes, dynamics, and disparities along the construct of race (Anti-Racist pedagogy in Action: First steps,2021; Blakeney, 2011; Brookfield, 2014; Kishimoto, 2018; Utt & Tochluk, 2020; Vanhouwe, 2007). Educators centralize these discourses upon the experiences, perspectives, and truths of BIPOC folks and their navigation of the systems in question (Blakeney, 2011; Brookfield, 2014; Vanhouwe, 2007). This would often require providing space for BIPOC students and folks to vulnerably share (or not share) their experiences and what matters to them as it pertains to the navigation of societal constructs (Brookfield, 2014; Vanhouwe, 2007).

Critical Pedagogy

An approach to teaching and education that critically examines and challenges the perpetuation of injustice, inequity, and oppressive ideologies within – and outside of – school settings (Breunig, 2016; Glavin, 2014a; Wiobyrne, 2018). Educators facilitate a space in which thoughts, speech, readings, writing materials, and other content are examined beyond their superficial meanings, first impressions, and dominant myths to understand their deeper meanings, etiology, social contexts, and social consequences (Glavin, 2014a; Wiobyrne, 2018). Educators engage in critical dialogue with students to challenge oppressive structures and transform society.

Critical pedagogy often employs the use of praxis – reflecting upon one’s world with the intent of transforming it (Wiobyrne, 2018). Educators would create opportunities for discussion around subject matter and materials where systems of power and intersectionality could be discussed and critiqued, determining the assumptions, ideologies, and truths that these systems of power are grounded in (Glavin, 2014a; Wiobyrne, 2018). Educators and students engage in these discussions as equals. Ultimately, the goal is to develop critical consciousness, in which both student and educator can not only explore societal mechanisms within content material that perpetuate oppression and inequality, but also critically look at ways in which all can engage and move towards social justice (Glavin, 2014a; Wiobyrne, 2018).

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Teaching that recognizes all students learn differently and that these differences may be connected to background, language, family structure and social or cultural identity. Practitioners of culturally responsive pedagogy more than acknowledge the “cultural uniqueness” of each student; they intentionally nurture it in order to create and facilitate effective conditions for learning. It is not about “cultural celebrations,” nor is it aligned with traditional ideas around multiculturalism; it involves careful acknowledgement, respect and an understanding of difference and its complexities (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013; Ragoonaden & Mueller, 2017).

Feminist Pedagogy

As a way of teaching and learning that is grounded in the framework and perspective of feminist theory(-ies) (Lawrence, 2016), in which white, male-centered, heteronormative forms of epistemologies and ideologies are questioned, and epistemologies grounded in disembodied objectivity, rationality and neutrality are strived for (Forrest & Enns, 2005; Morris, 2020).  Feminist pedagogy is grounded in three tenets and practices (adapted from [Lawrence, 2016]): 1) The resistance of hierarchies 2)The use of experience as a resource 3)Transformative learning.


Indigenization refers to the transformation of academia (education, curricula, pedagogy, school environment, etc.) towards the recognition, incorporation, and centralization of Indigenous perspectives, practices, and epistemes (Fellner, 2018; Gaudry & Lorenz, 2018; Kuokkanen, 2008; Liboiron, 2019; Ragoonaden & Mueller, 2017). The active deconstruction of curriculums, practices and policies that inherently perpetuates an assimilation into eurocentrism, as well as the active implementation of – and engagement in – Indigenous practices, epistemes, and ways of learning throughout the entirety of the academic setting (Fellner, 2018; Gaudry & Lorenz, 2018; Kuokkanen, 2008; Liboiron, 2019; Ragoonaden & Mueller, 2017). The act of decolonization and indigenization of curricula (and academia overall) is to allow for a more conducive and inclusive learning environment for all folks, significantly Indigenous students (Gaudry & Lorenz, 2018).

Multicultural Pedagogy

A social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture (Banks & Ambrosio, 2021; Glavin, 2014b; Forrest & Enns, 2005; The Great Schools Partnership, 2013); a system of instruction that attempts to foster cultural pluralism and acknowledges the differences between races and cultures (Encyclopedia of Children's Health, 2021). Multicultural pedagogy seeks to reconceptualize and expand the Western canon, to make it more representative and inclusive of a given nation's diversity, and to reshape the frames of references, perspectives, and concepts that make up school knowledge (Banks & Ambrosio, 2021; Glavin, 2014b; Forrest & Enns, 2005; The Great Schools Partnership, 2013).

Social Justice Pedagogy

Education that critically and explicitly recognizes the impact of the disparities in societal opportunities, resources, and long-term outcomes upon marginalized groups (Tapper, 2013). Whereas critical pedagogy often focuses on understanding the impacts of language and speech upon the perpetuation of injustice and oppressive ideologies within society, social justice pedagogy focuses more specifically upon the social constructs within society and the implications they have in creating and maintaining the disparities amongst social groups (Breunig, 2016; Tapper, 2013).

In line with critical pedagogy, educators would actively integrate opportunities for discussion, discourse and learning upon the disparities found among social groups and in the real-world impact it has on marginalized social groups, as well as their members (Breunig, 2016; Tapper, 2013). Discourse, discussion and learning material would allow or disparages amongst social groups are perpetuated and maintained on an individual, organizational, institutional, and systemic level (Breunig, 2016; Tapper, 2013).

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) 

UDL “is an educational framework that guides the design of learning goals, materials, methods and assessments as well as the policies surrounding these curricular elements with the diversity of learners in mind.” Learn more from UDL on Campus