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Shawn's background is applied linguistics (that is, studying how humans learn languages) and developmental psychology in education, specifically the cultural historical activity theory of Vygotsky. Most of his work is with museums, both history museums and science museums looking at family group interactions and at how exhibitions are structured to support or undermine certain kinds of learning. His Sea Grant Extension position combines academic work on free-choice learning with practice-based research in the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center. He also works closely with graduate students in the Free-Choice Science Learning Ph.D. and M. S. programs as well as in the Environmental Sciences and Marine Resource Management programs at OSU.