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Dr Prithvi Shrestha

Prithvi Shrestha

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Professional biography

I am a Senior Lecturer in English Language in the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics. I hold a BEd, MA in English literature (both Tribhuvan University, Nepal), MA TESOL (University of Lancaster) and EdD (The Open University). I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). Prior to coming to work at The Open University in 2006, I worked in Goldsmiths College, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I taught as an English language teacher in secondary schools and worked as teacher educator in Nepal over 12 years.

Research interests

I have led or co-led a number of research projects. My research sits broadly within educational and applied linguistics, underpinned by Vygotskian sociocultural theory and systemic functional linguistics. In particular, my work has contributed to the field of academic literacy, language across the curriculum, assessment and educational technology mediated language teacher education in developing countries. In academic literacy and language across the curriculum, my key contributions have been understanding how dynamic assessment (a form of learning-oriented assessment) can support distance learners’ academic literacy development, how academic literacy contributes to learners’ progression in a discipline (e.g., science and early childhood studies) and how academic literacy embedded assessment can be designed to support distance learners effectively. These aspects are ongoing issues in higher education. Another key focus of my research has been investigating the impact of commercial language tests such as IELTS and TOEFL on different stakeholders in low economy countries (Bangladesh and Nepal). This work contributes to designing English language tests that are context-sensitive. Finally, my research in technology mediated language teacher education in developing countries has been within large donor-funded international development projects (e.g., English in Action in Bangladesh and Teacher Education through School-based Support India (TESS-India) in India). My key contribution is in the area of English language teacher professional development through mobile technologies in low-resourced contexts by developing research-led locally sensitive teacher professional development resources in Bangladesh.

Doctoral student supervision

Any research student interested in academic literacy, English for specific purposes, language assessment (including language testing) and technology mediated language teacher education can contact me. Currently, I supervise five doctoral students:

Jeremy Wilcock“Yes, well…”: the lexicogrammar of dialogue in written assignment feedback

Salomi Sneha Latha Bolleddu (Commonwealth Split-site PhD scholar - 2018-2019)A study of the effect of dynamic assessment on classroom interaction

David Gann: Investigating the efficacy of online text resequencing exercises for facilitating the use of linguistic features of written argumentation

Dana Therova: Linguistic complexity in international foundation students' assesed writing at a UK university

Namrita BatraHome and school literacy practices of children in rural India 


Past doctoral students

Saraswati DawadiPower of the Secondary Education Examination in the Nepalese Context (November 2019)

Valentina MorganaMobile English Learning in Italy: a case study (July 2018)

Marianthi BatsilaLinking Vocational business English to the employment market world: a Greek case study (April 2017) 

Tanvir Ahmed: Developing Constructivist Teaching Practices for Secondary Science with Student-teachers in Bangladesh: A Cultural Historical Activity Theory Intervention (Jan 2016)

Current research projects

Exploration of oral assessment in a distance English for business communication module (£2,447)

Researching Academic Reading in two contrasting EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) university contexts (Nepal & Sweden), and implications for the design of TOEFL iBT ($97,000; ETS)

Researching lexical thresholds and lexical profiles across the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR) levels assessed in the Aptis test (£13,000; British Council)

Perceptions of IELTS test users and motivations of test takers in Bangladesh and Nepal: A comparative case study (IELTS Research Grant, the British Council)

Past research projects

Academic literacy and communicating assessment to students on Level 1 Science Modules (funded by eSTEeM (£600))

Integrated study skills: effects on students’ academic writing for assessment in E229 (second year early childhood studies course (£2,107))

Integrated study skills: effects on students’ academic writing for assessment in E109 (Early Years study, funded by Faculty (£2,500))

Teaching English Language at Secondary Schools: Effective Integration of ICT to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Bangladesh (funded by the British Council (£60,000))

Formative tutor feedback and student learning: Is there evidence of learning?
(funded by Higher Education Academy UK)

Communication skills in FELS undergraduate modules (£5,000)

The IOA project: An authentic pilot of interactive audio e-assessment using Learnosity (internal funding)

Alignment between assessment and English language curriculum (funded by English in Action/ DfID, Bangladesh (£20,000))

Teaching interests

Informed by my ongoing programme of research, I design and develop innovative English for academic and specific purposes (EAP/ ESP) courses and materials for open and distance learners. Currently I am leading on the production of a business communication module called Communication skills for business and management which have distinct features such as learning-oriented assessment, reflective learning and workplace communication focus. I have extensively worked on language across the curriculum with various faculties in The Open University (i.e. embedding academic language and literacy practices in different disciplines such as Science and Early Years studies). This led to the adoption of academic language and literacy descriptors in the OU curriculum for the first time (2016). This means courses embedding academic literacy focused activities in their materials, thus supporting students who otherwise might be at risk of failure. I have the expertise of developing technology-mediated (e.g., mobile devices) teacher professional development materials for English language teachers who teach English as a second or foreign language (ESL/ EFL). This work is based on my research in two large international projects mentioned above. 

Impact and engagement

My research has been internationally recognised. Based on my work, I have been invited as a keynote speaker to international conferences and the debate on national policy on assessment. Additionally, I have served as a Joint Coordinator of International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, English for Specific Purposes, Special Interest Group (IATEFL ESP SIG). I was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of NELTA, an open access ELT journal published by Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) and a co-editor of Profesional and Academic English, the journal of the IATEFL ESP SIG. I was Editor of Journal of Language and Education published by National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.


Awards and medals

ELTons Award 2019 Finalist - Excellence in Course Innovation (team award) by the British Council for LB170 Communication skills for business and management of which I am the academic lead. 

Faculty Teaching Excellence Award 2018 (evaluated by students, team award) for LB170 Communication skills for business and management of which I am the academic lead. 

Gold Medal for best practice paper 2014 (with Christopher Walsh, Clare Woodward & Mike Solly) by Asian Association of Open Universities for The potential of mobile phones to transform teacher professional development.

ELTons 2013 Award (team award) by the British Council for Local Innovation (English in Action team)

Nominee (with Mark Krzanowski & William McCurry), ELTons 2007 Award by the British Council for innovative use of video conferencing technology (‘English language teaching for primary sector teacher training pack’ for Palestine teachers) - 2007

External collaborations

My innovative research in assessment and educational technology mediated teacher education has led to fruitful collaborations with external institutions and researchers. Two recent examples are:

1) Project title: Researching Academic Reading in two contrasting EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) university contexts (Nepal & Sweden), and implications for the design of TOEFL iBT ($97,000; ETS)

Collaborators: Nathaniel Owen (PI), Prithvi Shrestha (CoI), Kristina Hultgren (CoI), Bharat Babu Shrestha (Academic Lead, Tribhuvan University) & Maria Kuteeva (Academic Lead, Stockholm University)

2) Project title: Teaching English Language at Secondary Schools: Effective Integration of ICT to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Bangladesh (funded by British Council)

Collaborators: Prithvi Shrestha (OU Lead Principal Investigator), Md Mizanoor Rahman (Bangladesh Open University (BOU) Lead), Kazi Sharmin Pamela (BOU)

3) Project title: Perceptions of IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test users and motivations of test takers in Bangladesh and Nepal: A comparative case study (funded by British Council IELTS research grants)

Collaborators: Prithvi Shrestha (Principal Investigator), Christopher Walsh (Co-investigator, Torrens University, Adelaide, Australia), Ganga Ram Gautam (Co-investigator, Tribhuban University, Kathmandu, Nepal), Rubina Khan (Co-investigator, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh) 

As a result of my international experience of working in Bangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Nepal and the UK, I have maintained strong links with international professional bodies and scholars within my field of research. 

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
CREET: Language and Literacies Research ClusterClusterFaculty of Education and Language Studies


Externally funded projects

Researching English academic reading demands in content courses in two contrasting English-medium university domains (Nepal and Sweden) with reference to the potential role of TOEFL iBT reading tests
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Mar 201731 Dec 2019TOEFL

The TOEFL EMI project will draw on Evidence-Centred Design (ECD), identified as an important conceptual framework "for the design and delivery of educational assessments, organized around the idea of assessment as evidentiary argument" (Mislevy and Yin 2013). Within the ECD framework, the project will investigate the potential role of the TOEFL iBT examination in two diverse university contexts which use English as a medium of instruction (EMI), one in Sweden and the other in Nepal. Since reading is a key conduit by which university students must access content information, the project focuses on academic reading practices and on the potential role of TOIEFL iBT reading test materials in testing academic reading in such EMI settings. The project will accordingly research both domains in terms of academic reading practice and levels of ability, and as part of this will deploy TOEFL iBT reading tasks to test the reading of undergraduates in both contexts (n=100). If the TOEFL iBT exam is to be used in future in EMI contexts, such Domain Analysis is indispensable. The central aim of the project is therefore to elucidate the potential role of the TOEFL iBT test in testing academic reading in such contexts, and to recommend approaches to deploying the exam in such domains in future.