Skip to content

Toggle service links

Professor Stephen Bax

Professor Stephen Bax

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Director Research Excellence
  • Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language Studies
  • School of Languages and Applied Linguistics
  • Languages
  • stephen.bax

Professional biography

Stephen Bax joined the Open University in 2015 as Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics.

In 2014 he was awarded the TESOL Distinguished Researcher Award for his work on eye tracking, presented at the TESOL convention in Portland Oregon. His personal website has more about his research and other studies. 

He has a PhD from the University of Kent in the area of Discourse, and an MLitt and MSc in Applied Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh, as well as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from University of North Wales, Bangor. He also holds the Final Diploma in Arabic Translation from the Chartered Institute of Linguists.

Stephen was formerly a member of CRELLA at the University of Bedfordshire.

Research interests

At the Open University he is involved in researching language learning, including the use of computers in language learning (CALL), the use of computers in language testing (CALT), and areas of discourse including Computer Mediated Discourse Analysis (CMDA). Most recently he has been using eye tracking to research reading and reading tests. His 2013 article in Language Testing, the first article on eye tracking in the journal, won the 2014 TESOL Distinguished Research Award. You can also listen to him discussing it on the Language Testing journal's podcast.

You can visit his personal website at to find more about his research and other studies.

Teaching interests

Stephen has also worked extensively in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, and speaks Arabic and Spanish. His teaching at the OU is related to English language and linguistics, Spanish and Arabic.

Impact and engagement

Stephen was a member of the CRELLA team at the University of Bedfordshire which scored 100% in Impact in the last REF exercise. His publications include the British Council research monograph Researching English Bilingual Education in Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea, the book 'Discourse and Genre' (2011, Macmillan), his 2013 book Researching Intertextual Reading in the series Contemporary Studies in Descriptive Linguistics, as well as leading articles in the fields of teacher education, CALL and ICT, and areas of discourse. His 2003 article on CALL won an Elsevier prize. See his list of recent publications below.

He has done extensive consultancy work around the world for the British Council and for publishers, and he acted as book reviewer for CUP, OUP and other major publishers.

External collaborations

In terms of the web, he has produced numerous internet-based learning resources for the BBC World Service website, including a major interactive language learning series "Ten Days" for Latin America and internationally, as well as numerous other interactive language learning modules. He has also been interviewed by BBC World Service Radio as a specialist in online language learning and teaching, and has been commissioned to write in the Guardian newspaper on language teaching methodology and on the use of computers in language education.

Professor Bax is regularly invited to speak at international conferences. He is also on the referee panel for System (the international journal for educational technology in language education).

Research Activity

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
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.


The cognitive processing of candidates during reading tests: Evidence from eye-tracking (2013-10)
Bax, Stephen
Language Testing, 30(4) (pp. 441-465)
Researching Intertextual Reading (2013-07-11)
Bax, Stephen
Contemporary Studies in Descriptive Linguistics
ISBN : 9783035304909 | Publisher : Peter Lang | Published : Oxford
Discourse and Genre: Using Language in Context (2010-12-14)
Bax, Stephen
Perspectives on the English Language
ISBN : 9780230217966 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan
Introduction to Beyond the language classroom: researching MOOCs and other innovations (2017-06-28)
Kan, Qian and Bax, Stephen
In: Kan, Qian and Bax, Stephen eds. Beyond the language classroom: researching MOOCs and other innovations (pp. 1-4)
ISBN : 978-1-908416-52-0 | Publisher :
Beyond the language classroom: researching MOOCs and other innovations (2017-06-28)
Kan, Qian and Bax, Stephen eds.
ISBN : 978-1-908416-52-0 | Publisher :
Researching participants taking IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 (AWT2) in paper mode and in computer mode in terms of score equivalence, cognitive validity and other factors (2017-06)
Chan, Sathena; Bax, Stephen and Weir, Cyril
IELTS Partners: British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment and IDP: IELTS Australia
Researching the cognitive validity of GEPT High-Intermediate and Advanced Reading: an eye tracking and stimulated recall study (2016-07-30)
Bax, Stephen and Chan, Sathena
The Language Training and Testing Center (LTTC) Taipei, Taiwan (R.O.C)
Readers’ cognitive processes during IELTS reading tests: evidence from eye tracking (2013)
Bax, Stephen
British Council, ELT Research Papers 13-06