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(Use) Liberatory Thinking

People would say ‘Who is a leader?’ A leader is a person that does the work. It’s very simple. It’s a personal choice for people who choose to put in their time and their commitment to do the work. It’s a personal choice.

Dolores Huerta



Unlocked Mind IconLiberatory thinking is the re- imagining of one’s assumptions and beliefs about others and their capabilities by interrupting internal beliefs that undermine productive relationships and actions. Liberatory thinking goes beyond simply changing mindsets to creating concrete opportunities for others to experience liberation. The opportunities provides cover for and centers underrepresented and marginalized people. It pushes people to interrogate their own multiple identities in relation to others and to think about the consequences of our actions, especially for students of critical need. It explores how mindsets can impede or ignite progress in the classroom, school, and district.

Liberatory thinking lifts up and institutionalizes culturally relevant and sustaining opportunities that celebrate students’ identities and offer positive developmental experiences.

Liberatory thinking pushes us to think about what we want for students as a result of equity - beyond only working to stop the negative consequences of inequity.

Liberatory thinking requires working toward a common vision for equity and racial justice. Liberatory thinking appreciates and honors the differences among people, which includes but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, language, learning path, accessibility needs, family background, family income, citizenship, or tribal status.


Those who use liberatory thinking:

  • Broaden how they interpret data to be inclusive of student experiences instead of creating exclusionary practices.
  • Engage in deep reflective work to understand their biases, multiple intersecting identities, and personal stories.
  • Examine how they have been impacted by structural racism or systematic oppression while considering how they might be unintentionally perpetuating these conditions.
  • Disrupt historical ways of using data on assessment outcomes to compare students to dominant groups.
  • Develop individual and systemic equity purpose statements to guide decision-making.
  • Build relationships in affinity and across difference to lead change toward greater equity.
  • Advocate for fair treatment and opportunities for others.
  • Engage in courageous conversations on racial equity, internal biases, systemic inequities, and system redesign, including rethinking how they use data and how data impacts student experiences.
  • Manage privilege and bias by acknowledging and mitigating their personal bias.
  • Set conditions for safe/brave spaces where both healing and interruption can occur.
  • Push to include diverse affirming (positive) traditions, cultural lived experiences and culturally relevant curriculum in school life

This downloadable PDF includes the Equity Framework and interactive worksheets.

Download framework