Appendix B: Glossary of Terms

Learning for Justice Staff

Action in the context of the Social Justice Standards is a domain that includes honoring and celebrating identity and diversity as well as bringing about justice. Both individuals and groups can take action toward social justice.

Assessment refers to an evaluation of a student’s knowledge and or skills. They can range from formative (formal and informal assessments that check for a student’s understanding) to summative (such as an end-of-unit project that measures multiple skills and knowledge). Assessments are different from grading, but both send messages to students about what educators value. The best assessment strategies take equity into account.

Bias refers to conscious or unconscious prejudice against an individual or a group based on their identity. In the Social Justice Standards, bias is used to designate the prejudice held by individuals.

Braver space builds on important critiques of the terms brave and safe space to describe a learning community where students and educators seek to deepen their relationships with one another in support of challenging social injustice. The term braver instead of brave alludes to the continuous process and work educators and students must do to cultivate this type of space.

Caregivers references the larger support system around students, including parents, parental partners, stepparents, extended family members, foster or adoptive families, coaches, mentors, teachers, and community leaders.

Civic engagement is the action that students, educators and community members can take—either individually or collectively—to address injustice. In addition to preparing students to be responsible voters, civic engagement can include providing students with information about social issues and supporting them in addressing these issues in their communities.

Climate represents the experiences of students and educators in the school’s environment and the extent to which it feels welcoming and inclusive for all students, especially students from historically marginalized groups.

Culture is similar to climate and refers to the physical and social school environment and values as expressed through curricula and practice. Culture influences the decisions, actions and ways things are done at the school.

Cultural competency refers to the ability to work effectively and sensitively across cultural contexts. According to Gloria Ladson-Billings, educators can exhibit cultural competency when they understand the role of culture in schooling, initiate learning about students’ cultures and communities, use students’ cultures as foundations for learning, and help students understand their full identities.

Culturally responsive practices/pedagogy/teaching asks educators to make connections to students’ prior knowledge. The goal of culturally responsive pedagogy is engagement, academic achievement, cultural competency and critique of the existing social order. Notable scholars include Gloria Ladson-Billings and Geneva Gay.

Culturally sustaining pedagogy builds on culturally responsive pedagogy and focuses on how teachers sustain and build on students’ knowledge, values, beliefs and practices. Culturally sustaining pedagogy shares the goals of culturally responsive pedagogy and sees students’ cultural practices as resources to honor, explore and extend. Notable scholars include Django Paris and Lorena Germán.

Curriculum refers to the content educators teach in their classrooms, such as the texts and sources they select. Educators should be intentional about auditing and selecting their curriculum to include students’ interests as well as a diversity of perspectives.

Differentiation refers to adapting strategies for content and instruction to fit the learner. Educators who successfully differentiate their classroom tailor their materials to meet students’ diverse needs while still holding high standards for learning outcomes. By applying a framework like Universal Design for Learning, teachers can differentiate by using what they know about students and provide students with different ways to achieve an objective.

Digital literacy is a holistic approach to cultivating skills that allow people to participate meaningfully in online communities, interpret the changing digital landscape, understand the relationships between systemic -isms and information presented as factual, and unlock the power of digital tools for good.

Diversity refers to the variety of identities, backgrounds and experiences that make up a group of people. In the context of the Social Justice Standards, Diversity is a domain that includes helping students explore and celebrate the differences within their communities.

Dominant identity group is an identity group whose members share a common privilege. An individual may simultaneously belong to dominant identity groups (for example, straight, white) and nondominant identity groups (for example, undocumented, experiencing poverty).

Equity is the set of conditions that allows each person, regardless of societal or cultural factors, to reach their full potential. Equity is different from equality, which treats everyone the same despite disparate circumstances and outcomes and can actually further marginalize people.

Family references the larger support system around students, including parents, parental partners, stepparents, extended family members, and foster or adoptive families. Family can also include chosen or found families, people who are not biologically related to the person but fulfill the role of family members through their love and support.

Gender refers to a set of social, physical, psychological and emotional traits, often influenced by societal expectations, that classify an individual as female, male, androgynous or other. Gender is a spectrum, not a binary structure, and words and qualities ascribed to these traits vary across cultures. Gender identity (a person’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither) and gender expression (the external appearance of a person’s gender identity) are related terms.

Identity is the set of visible and invisible characteristics we use to categorize and define ourselves and those around us (for example, gender, race, age, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status, language, marital/family status, ability, sexual orientation and more). Identity shapes our experience by influencing the ways we see ourselves and the ways others see us. At Learning for Justice, the Identity domain of the Social Justice Standards includes students developing a positive sense of self, including celebrating aspects of their identity that have been historically marginalized.

Instruction refers to how educators teach the curriculum (the content, or what they teach). In other words, instruction includes the pedagogical choices teachers make, such as using inquiry-based teaching when engaging with challenging historical topics.

Justice is achieved when people have equal rights; it is a combination of fairness and opportunity. The Justice domain of the Social Justice Standards emphasizes students’ ability to recognize and respond to injustice and unfairness at the individual, institutional and systemic levels.

LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (the plus sign represents other sexual identities). The word queer has a complicated history, and its reclamation as a positive and encompassing term of identity isn’t universally accepted. In this guide, we use queer as an inclusive term to refer to those who do not identify as cisgender or heterosexual.

Multilingual learner refers to a student who speaks a language other than English at home. About 1 in 5 children in the United States fall into this category. Many schools refer to multilingual learners as English language learners, but we are moving away from this language because English language learner is a deficit-based perspective that centers the English language. Another term that educators can use is emergent bilingual students, coined by Ofelia García, Ph.D., in 2008, which affirms the unique potential for multilingualism of students who are learning English in school and have grown up communicating in one or more other languages.

Positionality refers to the context of someone’s multiple or intersectional identities, which assigns power to certain identities. Positionality influences not only how one perceives and experiences the world but also how the world perceives and experiences them.

Project-based learning is a teaching method through which students learn by engaging with projects that help them analyze or solve real-world problems. In a project-based unit, the end product is a project rather than an exam.

Race is a system created by white people that classifies and groups people in a way that gives power to white people. Race is not biological. See Undoing Racism: A Philosophy of International Social Change by Ronald Chisom and Michael Washington.

Racism, as defined by sociologist David T. Wellman, author of Portraits of White Racism, is “a system of advantage based on race.” Psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? indicates that this system includes cultural messages and institutional policies and practices as well as the beliefs and actions of individuals.

Safer space builds on important criticism of the terms brave and safe space to describe a learning community where students and educators work to ensure that community members from historically marginalized backgrounds feel welcome to be their full selves. The term safer instead of safe recognizes the continuous process and work educators and students must do to cultivate this type of space.

Scaffolded activities provide students with support structures to assist them in navigating learning materials. By learning more about students, including their values, beliefs, experiences and prior knowledge, teachers can more effectively add different forms of scaffolding to ensure that all students reach the learning objective.

Sexual orientation is an inherent or immutable emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. Oftentimes the term is used to signify the gender identity (or identities) to which a person is most attracted.

Social emotional learning (SEL) goes beyond assessing students’ social and emotional outcomes and connects to culturally responsive teaching, social justice and the process of healing. Dena N. Simmons, Ed.D., founder of LiberatED, explains that true SEL works toward “a world where all children feel safe to thrive in the comfort of their own skin.”

Social justice, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a state or doctrine of egalitarianism.” The goals of social justice, as explained in the LFJ article “What Is Social Justice Education?” by Lee Anne Bell, Ed.D., are “creating a society where everyone has fair access to the resources and opportunities to develop their full capacities, and everyone is welcome to participate democratically with others to mutually shape social policies and institutions that govern civic life.”

Social Justice Standards, in the context of the LFJ Social Justice Standards, are a framework for anti-bias education at every stage of K-12 instruction. Comprised of anchor standards and age-appropriate learning outcomes, the Standards provide a common language and organizational structure educators can use to guide curriculum development and make schools more just and equitable. There are four domains within the Social Justice Standards: Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action.

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