Social Sciences


Steven Howard

Current Positions:

Lecturer, Educational Psychology & Research Methods


Dr Steven Howard is a Ph.D. graduate from York University (Canada) and an early career researcher in the area of Educational and Cognitive-Developmental Psychology. His program of research investigates the development of domain-general cognitive processes (e.g., working memory, executive function, attention, intelligence) in the preschool and primary school years and the educational implications of these changing cognitive capacities.

2013 Ph.D. Psychology (Developmental & Cognitive Processes), York University
2009 M.A. Psychology (Developmental & Cognitive Processes), York University
2007 B.A. (honours) Double Major (Psychology and Political Science), York University

Research Grants:
Okely, T., Trost, S., Berthelsen, D., Salmon, J., Reilly, J., Cliff, D., Jones, R., Batterham, M., Brown, Eckermann, Hinkley, T., Mickle, K., Howard, S. J., Janssen, X., & Chandler, P. Physical activity in disadvantaged pre-schools. $1,064,324 NHMRC Project Grant. 2013-2017.

Okely, T., Trost, S., Hartland, D., Hewitt, L., Stevens, S., Morrell, J., Reilly, J., Howard, S. J., & Batternham, M. Acute effects of a 'reduced-sitting pre-school day' on energy expenditure, musculoskeletal health, and cognitive development in pre-schoolers: A whole room calorimeter study. $24,866 IHMRI Pilot Projects Grant + $8,836 Interdisciplinary Educational Research Institute and UOW Faculty of Social Sciences funding.

Cliff, D., Howard, S. J., Vella, S., & Okely, T. Do physical activity and electronic screen behaviours influence cognitive and psychosocial development in preschool children? A pilot study. $10,000 University of Wollongong Faculty Research Committee grant + $2,339 IERI Funding. 2013-2014

Bokosmaty, S., Howard, S. J., Eady, M., Baker, A., Woodcock, S., & Ehrich, J. Teacher dispositions: Current status and future needs. $8,842 University of Wollongong Faculty Research Committee grant. 2013-2014.

Howard, S. J. Development of age-appropriate measures of preschoolersÂż scope and control of attention. $2,000 University of Wollongong Dean's Innovation Grant.

Howard, S. J. Measuring the development of attentional capacity in Australian children. $5,000 University of Wollongong Early Career Researcher grant + $2,500 IERI Funding. 2013.

Research Interests:

We know that executive functions play a central role in children's emerging cognitive, academic, behavioural, social and emotional competencies, but how do these executive functions dissociate (i.e., working memory, inhibition, shifting), develop and relate to other cognitive functions in preschool and primary school students? How can we best measure executive functions in these age groups?

We know that physical activity has physical and health benefits, but can physical activity also provide benefits for children's cognitive development? Do sedentary behaviours (e.g., certain screen-based behaviours) have any positive effects on executive functions?

Around the world, student competencies are measured in very different ways (e.g., Australia's NAPLAN, UK's SATs), with high stakes associated with performance on these tests. However, research suggests that these assessments may not all accurately capture students' current competencies. Using fMRI, we will investigate the cognitive load (i.e., domain-general contributions) to various standardised educational assessments.

There is conflicting evidence for the benefits of pre-service teacher training in gifted and talented education. Does this training have a positive effect on pre-service teachers' perceptions and practices? If so, are these gains maintained into the in-service context (or do they fade with time)?

In addition to the above, I am interested in supervising Higher Degree Research students investigating the following:

The development of attention, working memory and/or executive function and the implications of these changing cognitive capacities for learning, instruction and assessment;

How to integrate insights from working memory theory (measurement and development of WM capacity) with insights from cognitive load theory (the cognitive demands of instruction and assessment);

The cognitive factors underlying giftedness.


2013: Vice-Chancellor's Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Learning (OCTAL) Award - Nominee, University of Wollongong
2013: ACE Outstanding Teacher Recognition Award, Australian College of Educators
2010: Canadian Chairs of Departments of Psychology (CCDP) Teaching Assistantship Award, York University
2010: Ontario Graduate Scholarship, Government of Ontario (CDN $15,000)
2009: Ontario Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology, Government of Ontario (CDN $10,000)
2009: Canadian Chairs of Departments of Psychology (CCDP) Teaching Assistantship Award - Nominee, York University

Future Research Topics:

In addition to the aforementioned studies (see 'Research Interests'), additional future research topics include:

Using structural equation modeling to examine domain-general cognitive contributions to NAPLAN performance.

Research Students

  • Conor West : Professional disposition and career choice motivation in transitioning teachers
  • Kylie Fraser-Seeto : Acute and Long-term effects of differing amounts of pre-service gifted education training on educators' attitudes and behaviours toward gifted and talented students
  • Jade McNeill : Do Physical Activity and Electronic Screen Behaviours Influence Psychosocial Development in Preschool Children?
  • Lisa Webster : Formative Assessment for Language and Communication in the Early Years
  • Joanne Grimmond : An Examination of the Impact of Interactive Technologies on the Social Engagement of Preschool Age Children
  • Lauren Leonard : Brain-related Changes after Computerized and Non-Computerized Executive Function Training
  • David Hammer : Self-Regulation in Early Childhood: Antecedents and Consequences
  • Christopher Freeman : when are we guessing? An investigation of the impact on the validity of results associated with the presence of guessing in the assessment of students in large scale assessments programs