Self education is a critical part of working to make spaces more equitable and inclusive. This page contains resources you may find helpful to further your learning about a variety of topics related to equity and inclusion, particularly in physics and higher education.

Equity refers to fairness, or justice, and acknowledges that providing everyone with an equal opportunity to succeed may require providing people with different levels of resources in order to overcome historical and systemic oppression. This is in contrast to equality, where everyone is treated exactly the same, even if they come to a situation with different resources, experiences, or opportunities. You can read more about this difference here.

An unconscious (or “implicit”) bias is a bias or stereotype which an individual has adopted instinctively without realizing it. Often, the individual will specifically believe that they have no particular preference or opinion with respect to the issue. As a result, well-meaning individuals with an unconscious bias can nevertheless end up participating in and perpetuating systemic discriminatory practices. Regardless of our identities, we all have unconscious biases. 

Stereotype threat refers to the experience of being in a situation in which you are at risk of confirming (or being treated negatively because of) a stereotype about your racial, ethnic, gender, or cultural group. Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson first coined the term when they demonstrated that this experience could lead to underperformance by African-American students on an academic test. The effects of stereotype threat are heightened in high stakes situations, and the individual only needs to be aware that the stereotype exists but does not need to believe it in order to be affected by stereotype threat. This phenomenon is often cited as a contributing factor to race- and gender-based achievement gaps in education. 

  • This short video provides an introduction to the term “stereotype threat”, and some of the research demonstrating that it can lead to underperformance of, e.g., women on math exams. 
  • In the book Whistling Vivaldi: How stereotypes affect us and what we can do,  social psychologist Claude Steele discusses his research findings about stereotypes and how they can shape identity. He defines and explains “stereotype threat”, and offers solutions for mitigating its effects. 
  • There are many research articles you can read about stereotype threat and its effects in education or society more broadly, but here is one of the first articles from Steele and Aronson on the subject (PDF). 
  • Materials from the April 2017 EIC event on stereotype threat

“Imposter Syndrome” or “the Imposter Phenomenon” are terms coined by Clance and Imes (1978) to describe the internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. Individuals experiencing imposter syndrome often believe that they are uniquely less deserving of their success than their colleagues, attribute their success solely to luck and deception, and are often reluctant to put their work and ideas forward for fear of being discovered as a fraud. Anecdotally, imposter syndrome is widely prevalent in higher education, among faculty as well as students, and can lead talented  individuals to completely overlook their own accomplishments and underestimate their qualifications and abilities. Imposter syndrome may disproportionately affect individuals from underrepresented groups. 

Sometimes, we unintentionally say or do something to someone that reveals our unconscious biases about them. Such actions are called “microaggressions,” and even though they are often committed without malice, prolonged and repeated exposure can cause serious harm and make environments less inclusive.

Racial Colorblindness is a belief/practice of ignoring race and taking a race-neutral view of society. This has negative consequences, as described in the following resources:

“Intersectionality” is a construct that describes the cumulative and interdependent systems of oppression impacting people with multiple marginalized identities. The term was coined in 1989 by legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw as a way to see and understand structural systems of discrimination and inequality. 

“Growth mindset”, a term coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, refers to the belief that your qualities (e.g., intelligence) can be cultivated through effort, strategy, and help from others. In contrast, “fixed mindset” refers to the belief that these qualities are innate, fixed traits. Research shows that teaching students to have a growth mindset can benefit student learning, academic performance, and resistance to stereotype threat.

The September 2017 issue of The Physics Teacher included a special collection of papers on the topic of race and physics teaching. 

The May 2020 issue of The Physics Teacher included a special collection of papers on the topic of sex, gender, and physics teaching. 

For an example of how we can create inclusive classroom environments and address equity in our physics classrooms, see this presentation and this paper on an approach used in a Modern Physics class here at CU

If you have a resource that may be helpful to members of the Physics Department that you think we should add to this site, please email us at