Definitions for Inclusive Excellence

Working Definitions for Inclusive Excellence

Inclusive Excellence brings together a comprehensive knowledge base – research and theory—from a variety of sources. Within this framework there are some concepts and terms that are fundamentally linked to the educational mission and institutional practice, and thus deserve to be highlighted. The definitions have been categorized by four essential pillars of Inclusive Excellence-Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Excellence.


Diversity: Individual differences (e.g. personality, learning styles, and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g. race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, country of origin, and ability as well as cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations) that can be engaged in the service of learning.

Compositional Diversity: The numerical and proportional representation of various racial and ethnic groups on a campus. (Milem, Chang and Antonio).

Critical Mass: Meaningful representation. Refers to a number that encourages underrepresented minority students to participate in the classroom and not feel


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


Equity Mindedness: Refers to the outlook, perspective or mode of thinking exhibited by practitioners and others who call attention to patterns of inequity in student outcomes, and are willing to assume personal and institutional responsibility for the elimination of inequity. This includes being “color conscious,” noticing differences in experience among racial-ethnic groups, and being willing to talk about race and ethnicity as an aspect of equity. Equity perspectives are evident in actions, language, problem-framing, problem-solving, and cultural practices. (Bensimon, 2008)

Deficit Mindedness: Deficit thinking “posits that students who fail in school do so because of alleged internal deficits (such as cognitive and/or motivational limitations) or shortcomings socially linked to the youngster-such as familiar deficits and dysfunctions” (Valencia, 1997). In other words, deficit thinking “blames the student” for unequal outcomes.

Representational Equity: Proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades. (Bensimon, 2008)


Excellence: The quality of being excellent; state of possessing good qualities in an eminent degree; exalted merit; superiority in virtue.