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Anushika Kariyawasam

Anushika Kariyawasam imageQualifications

  • BA Honours in English (Peradeniya)
  • MA in TESL (OUSL)
  • PGDip in Psychological Counselling and Psychotherapy (SLNIPC)

Research title

Therapeutic Scaffolding for Underachieving English as a Second Language (ESL) Students

PhD start

July 2020 (Full-time)

Research summary

In Sri Lankan context, a considerable number of students who have completed their primary and secondary studies in their mother tongue, and with limited English proficiency, struggle at the university level where the medium of instruction is in English, with diverse learning problems/challenges encountered. Literature on learning problems/challenges faced by ESL students in EMI university contexts and solutions to overcome them indicates that there is a dearth of empirical research conducted to investigate learning problems in-depth, with limited intervention strategies to support these students. Therefore, this research aims to introduce a novel intervention approach called “Therapeutic Scaffolding” (TS) to support underachieving ESL students to mitigate their learning problems and enhance academic proficiency. TS primarily integrates “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT),” “Theory of Scaffolding,” and “Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)” to develop students’ cognition, behaviour, and skills. The methodology comprises an action research study undertaken with a qualitative approach. The participants include the researcher functioning as the language teacher, a content teacher, and a group of 10-20 volunteer underachieving ESL students from an EMI degree programme at a public university in Sri Lanka. These students are exposed to “Therapeutic Scaffolding” for one academic semester, and subsequently, the impact of TS on learning problems and academic proficiency, and students’ perceptions on TS are evaluated and analysed thematically. The research provides an original contribution to knowledge through the conception and evaluation of TS as a transdisciplinary intervention approach to support underachieving ESL students to overcome learning problems and enhance academic proficiency, and redefines the role of university language teachers across disciplinary boundaries.

Research interests

  • Linguistics (Applied Linguistics, Psycholinguistics)
  • Language Pedagogy (TESL, ELT)
  • Learner Autonomy
  • Tertiary Education/Higher Education


Accelerating Higher Education And Development (AHEAD) Doctoral Scholarship


  • Associate Professor Vijay Mallan
  • Professor Ben Daniel
  • Associate Professor Joyce Koh