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Sharon Nelson-Barber

Sharon Nelson-Barber, a sociolinguist, directs Culture and Language in STEM Education within WestEd’s Science and Engineering content area. Her research centers on understanding how students’ sociocultural contexts influence how they make sense of schooling in mathematics and science.

She also studies how cultural knowledge can become visible within large-scale testing formats in order to ensure that assessment is equitable for all students. Her recent major research projects include Developing a Culturally Responsive Computing Instrument for Underrepresented Students, Connecting Assessment and Culture to Increase Achievement, and Pacific Islands Climate Change Education Partnership. She works with other Indigenous researchers and community partners who span the lower 48 states, Alaska, the Northern Pacific islands of Micronesia, and many areas of Polynesia.

Nelson-Barber has published extensively, most recently as editor and contributor to the two-volume Indigenous STEM Education: Perspectives from the Pacific Islands, the Americas, and Asia. She also has a chapter forthcoming in Handbook of Multicultural Science Education and wrote the prologue to Living Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education with/in Indigenous Communities.

She is cofounder of POLARIS — Pacific/Polar Opportunities to Learn, Advance, and Research Indigenous Systems — a research and development network that supports healthy communities by integrating Indigenous perspectives with new frontiers of knowledge that strengthen educational transformation. An ongoing project convenes Indigenous elders and scientists to document technical solutions for climate change from both Indigenous and western academic perspectives, and to heighten international attention to the need to preserve cultures and societies amidst rising waters and melting ice.

Prior to joining WestEd, Nelson-Barber taught in the Anthropology Department at Stanford University and in Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

She earned a BA in Russian history from Mount Holyoke College, Master’s and doctoral degrees in human development from Harvard University, and completed postdoctoral work at Stanford University as a Spencer Fellow.