Dr Steve Bird

Associate Professor


Dr. Bird will not be taking graduate students in 2018-2019.

I completed my PhD in Psycholinguistics at Cambridge University in 2000. My research interests centre on memory function in language learning, and applying that research to materials and methods in real language learning contexts.

Over the last six years I have mainly worked in senior-level university administration roles. Since 2013 I have served as Associate Dean for Research in Western's Faculty of Education. My role mainly involves working with Faculty members and students to develop research projects and strong grant applications. I also work with other ADRs across the university to build research infrastructure and initiatives to facilitate research success for the university. In addition, I serve on various committees and Boards involved in adjudicating and reviewing during research grant competitions, and I work with various groups involved in internationalization strategies. 

I also currently serve as Academic Director of the University’s new English Language Centre. The Centre's primary mission is to provide English language proficiency programs for international students at Western. My role mainly involves curriculum development and quality assurance as the Centre's programs  evolve.

Prior to coming to Western in 2013, from 2008 I was Chair of General and Applied Linguistics, and then Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities at United Arab Emirates University (UAE's National University). Earlier in my career I was Senior Lecturer at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei. I have also lived and taught in Singapore (National Insitutute of Education and at The British Council), Japan, and Greece.  My experience in international education contexts has helped me to contrinbute to Western’s internationalization strategies as the university welcomes ever more international students into its undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Expertise Areas


I conduct quantitative applied psycholinguistic research concerning representations and processes involved in learning and using language, emphasizing research with practical applications for language learning. Recently I have looked at three factors have been found to powerfully affect human memory performance and learning of new language: level of processing, temporal distribution of practice, and age. Level of processing refers to the mental operations that are engaged during memory encoding; temporal distribution of practice refers to the time period intervening between study sessions, and between the study sessions and a memory test; age refers to a person’s chronological age. Each of these factors has been studied extensively in experimental psychology and been shown to account for differences in memory performance and learning rates, but the interactions between these factors have not been studied extensively and are poorly understood.

These interactions are important to our understanding of the neuropsychology of memory and learning throughout life, as well as for practical applications to learning environments, where we aim to optimize levels of processing and study distribution time for learners of different ages. My research studies these three factors in controlled laboratory experiments and also authentic learning environments to explore the main effects and interactions of these three variables on memory performance and learning. We are currently working with EEG and fMRI technology to extend the behavioural side of the research into neural level studies. We also aim to understand the compensatory brain mechanisms of memory and language as the brain ages.

Recent Publications

Sample Representative Publications

Bird, S. (in press). Levels of Processing in ESOL. In J. Liontas (Ed.), TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Bird, S. (2012).  Expert knowledge, distinctiveness, and levels of processing in language learning. Applied Psycholinguistics33(4). 665-689. Cambridge University Press.

Bird, S. (2011). Effects of distributed practice on the acquisition of L2 English syntax. Applied Psycholinguistics, 32(2), 435 - 452. Cambridge University Press.

Bird, S.A. (2005). Language learning edutainment: Mixing motives in digital resources. RELC Journal, 36(3), 311-342Sage.

Bird, S.A., & Williams, J.N. (2002). The effect of bimodal input on implicit and explicit memory: An investigation into the benefits of within-language subtitling. Applied Psycholinguistics, 23(4), 509-533. Cambridge University Press.