Jill Steel PhD

Thesis title: Children's Reading and Wellbeing: Exploring the influence of Reading to Dogs


In 2023 I was awarded my PhD which I completed at the Moray House School of Education and Sport.  My primary interests are in children and young people's wellbeing  and literacy outcomes, and how Reading to Dogs may support these.

I have created and developed the Reading to Dogs intervention, Paws and Learn™, partly informed by practising teachers.

My career includes experience both as a Primary School Teacher and a College Lecturer in Childhood Practice.  In addition I volunteered for many years with my dogs as a Therapet visitor in conjunction with the Canine Concern Scotland Trust, and conducted research into animal-assisted learning in a P1 classroom during my Masters in Educational Studies  at the University of Glasgow in 2013/14.


Achievements in relation to my studies include:


Awarded Edinburgh Innovations funding to develop Paws and Learn™, March 2023.

Winner of a BERA 22 conference ECR award, September 2022.

Awarding funding from the Children and Young People Hub towards illustrations for Paws and Learn™, July 2022.

Awarded the Diversity award by the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) during their annual conference, July 2022.

Awarded funding to produce a film about the 'Paws and Learn' study by the Edinburgh Futures Institute, July 2021.

Awarded the University of Edinburgh's Principal's Career Development Scholarship for my PhD study, 2019-2022.

Winner of the University of Glasgow's William Boyd prize for the highest achieving student in the Masters in Education, 2013/14.


Conference details


Interweaving Conference MAY 2022 - Presenter

UKLA Conference Birmingham JULY 2022 - Presenter of two presentations

International Society for Anthrozoology JULY 2022 - Presenter  

British Educational Research Association Liverpool SEPTEMBER 2022 - Presenter of two presentations

Scottish Educational Research Association NOVEMBER 2022 - Presenter (planned)


International Society for Anthrozoology Conference  JUNE 2021 - Presenter

United Kingdom Literacy Association  JULY 2021 - Presenter


International Society for Anthrozoology Conference SEPTEMBER 2020 - Presenter

American Psychological Association AUGUST 2020 - Presenter




- Open from February 2020 - June 2020.

- Seeking views of UK teachers on Reading to Dogs

Reading to Dogs as a form of animal‐assisted education: are positive outcomes supported by quality research? (2023)

Jill Steel

In Literacy. Published August 2023.



McGeown, S. & Steel, J. (2023).  To read or not to read? How diverse practices, perspectives and experiences shape our reading engagement. BERA Blog Special Series. https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog-series/to-read-or-not-to-read


Reading to Dogs in schools: a controlled feasibility study of an online Reading to Dogs intervention (2023).  

Jill Steel

In International Journal of Educational Research, 117, 102117. Published January 2023.



Steel, J. (2022). Reading to Dogs in schools: Misguided fad or effective research-backed intervention? BERA Blog. https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/reading-to-dogs-in-schools-misguided-fad-or-effective-research-backed-intervention


Collaboration and co-design: Learning from literacy interventions co-created by researchers and teachers  (2022).

Sarah McGeown, Emily Oxley & Jill Steel

In The Psychology of Education Review 46 (2). Published September 2022.


Defining Terms Used for Animals Working in Support Roles for People with Support Needs. Animals, 12(15), 1975. (2022)

Howell, T. J., Nieforth, L., Thomas-Pino, C., Samet, L., Agbonika, S.,...Steel, J., ... & Bennett, P. 

In Animals, Received: 31 May 2022, Accepted: 15 July 2022, Published: 4 August 2022



Children’s wellbeing and reading engagement: The impact of Reading to Dogs in a Scottish Primary 1 classroom (2022).

Jill Steel

In Education 3-13, Received 26th June 2022, Accepted 30th June 2022, Published 14th July 2022. 



Teacher-researcher collaboration in animal-assisted education: Co-designing a reading to dogs intervention (2022)

Jill Steel, Joanne M. Williams & Sarah McGeown 

In Educational Research (NFER), Received 19 Apr 2021, Accepted 06 Dec 2021, Published online: 21 Jan 2022

DOI: 10.1080/00131881.2021.2016061


Reading to dogs in schools: an exploratory study of teacher perspectives (2021)

Jill Steel, Joanne M. Williams & Sarah McGeown

In Educational Research (NFER) Pages 279-301 | Received 30 Oct 2020, Accepted 22 Jun 2021, Published online: 17 Aug 2021



An evaluation of the potential impact of standardised assessments on the promotion of pupil autonomy in Scottish education, from the perspective of Dearden’s view of autonomy

Jill Steel

May 13, 2019 in Citizenship, Social and Economics Education 201918:1, 33-43