Dr Alexander Griffiths is a Higher Education Specialist & Applied Psychologist based at the University of St Andrews. He currently holds the post of Academic Policy Officer for Taught Degrees in the Office of the Proctor and Senior Vice-Principal where he is responsible for the development and implementation of educational strategy and policy in relation to taught degrees within the University.
It is in this role that Alexander draws on his experience as a researcher and educator to develop innovative approaches and solutions to pedagogical issues in the higher education environment, and works closely with academic colleagues to continuously improve quality and standards in education.
Alexander is also a University Warden where he leads a residential support team that assists students in negotiating their pastoral needs and adjustment to broader University life beyond the classroom, and his research work also aims to further develop and support HE pastoral approaches.
Current Roles and Responsibilities
Academic Policy Officer (Taught Degrees), Office of the Proctor & Senior Vice-Principal
As the Academic Policy Officer (Taught Degrees), Alexander is responsible for the development and implementation of educational strategy and policy within the University. Key areas of focus are:
- The development, implementation and monitoring of the University’s regulatory and policy framework for taught degrees, ensuring that policies remain streamlined and fit for purpose.
- Advice, guidance and support in relation to taught degrees policy matters.
- Leading developments to enhance the undergraduate and taught postgraduate student experience.
- Clerk of the University's Learning and Teaching Committee.
- Leading and supporting institution-wide projects and working groups related to taught degrees.
- Maintaining an overview of sector developments in learning and teaching education.
As Warden of Albany Park in the University's residential system, Alexander is responsible for managing a residential support team that promotes three things within the University's residential environment:
- Care: Providing support, guidance, and a focus on student wellbeing, care, and resilience.
- Community: Working with students to enhance their experience by generating a sense of community and belonging within the residential environment.
- Conduct: Focusing on engendering a community that is safe, friendly, respectful, and welcoming to everyone.
Current Research Interests
The Higher Education context within the United Kingdom has consistently evolved and expanded over the last two decades. Universities have had to diversify in not only the way in which they reach out to and interface with students, but also the way in which they deliver learning and teaching to students. Whilst traditional teaching methods such as lectures and seminars remain a significant part of the higher education landscape in the UK, universities have focused on developing new approaches to engaging students in their learning and teaching. Our focus has become driven by placing the learner at the centre of their journey, developing within them a departure from traditional forms of student-staff engagement. Alexander is therefore currently working with colleagues on developing aspects of pedagogical research that address these new approaches to educational engagement within the sector.
A key area of research focus in Alexander's career has been on understanding how resilience and coping function in particular populations. Initially this work was developed at Cambridge University where Alexander explored the use of faith and religion in resilience and coping processes. Since working within services that seek to support students at a Higher Education level, Alexander has started to develop interests in exploring the nature of resilience within the university setting. Particular interests focus on the role of the university residential setting in boosting resilience, the ways in which students cope with the various crises they face both at an academic and personal level throughout the course of their studies, and examining methods through which we can promote resilient behaviours in the university setting in order to prevent students arriving at crisis point.
Previous Research Interests
Self, Identity, and Memory
Alexander's doctoral research under the supervision of Professor Malcolm D. MacLeod focused specifically on the development and maintenance of self and social identity in memory. His work examined Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) and Self-Categorisation Theory (Turner et al., 1987) and how our various conceptions of social identification affect the information we choose to process, store, and retrieve in memory. His work has also examined the impact of the social self on processes of retrieval inhibition in memory when applied to contexts such as gender, religion, and politics.
Psychology of Religion
Alexander's early research work has examined the role of faith and religiosity in people's lives, an interest that was developed when studying both Psychology and Theology at undergraduate level and further developed when he joined the Psychology & Religion Research Group at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Dr Nicholas J. S. Gibson. His work in this area has examined the social and cognitive processes that contribute to a sense of faith in people's lives, the role of faith in the exercise of coping and resilience when faced with life's challenges, as well as exploring the concept of God as an archetypal supernatural attachment figure.
MA (Hons) Psychology & Theological Studies, University of St Andrews (2005-2009)
Honours Dissertation Supervisor: Dr Elke E. Geraerts
MPhil Social & Developmental Psychology, Darwin College, University of Cambridge (2009 - 2010)
Supervisor: Dr Nicholas J. S. Gibson
PhD Experimental Psychology, University of St Andrews (2010 - 2014)
Supervisor: Professor Malcolm D. MacLeod
Academic Policy Officer (Taught Degrees), Office of the Principal, University of St Andrews
(May 2017 - Present)
Warden, Student Services, University of St Andrews
(November 2016 - Present)
Registry Officer (Research Student Support), Academic Registry, University of St Andrews
(January 2015 - May 2017)
Deputy Warden, Student Services, University of St Andrews
(August 2013 - October 2016)
Academic Tutor and Undergraduate Research Supervisor, School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St Andrews
(September 2010 - December 2014)
Doctoral Research Fellow, The MacLeodLab, University of St Andrews
(September 2010 - September 2014)
Assistant Warden, Student Services, University of St Andrews
(September 2012 - August 2013)
Graduate Research Associate, Psychology & Religion Research Group, University of Cambridge
(October 2009 - July 2010)
Undergraduate Research Assistant, The Memory Control Lab, University of St Andrews
(September 2008 - June 2009)
Undergraduate Research Assistant, The Clinical Cognition Lab, University of St Andrews
(January 2008 - June 2009)
Postgraduate Representative, Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group, British Psychological Society
(January 2011 - January 2013)
Postgraduate Representative, School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St Andrews
(May 2011 - January 2012)
Scholarships and Awards
2010 - 2014 - University of St Andrews Doctoral Scholarship. Full competitive scholarship of fees and maintenance for the duration of doctoral studies.
2011 - The Grindley Grant, Experimental Psychology Society, UK. Sponsored attendance and presentation of work at 12th European Congress of Psychology.
2011 - Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. For dedication to supporting student learning, teaching, and assessment in Higher Education.
2005 - Dangoor Scholarship, 1994 Group & University of St Andrews. Financial Scholarship for entering University with an outstanding record of prior academic excellence.
Griffiths, A. I. (2015). Retrieval Processes in Social Identification. PhD thesis, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK.
Griffiths, A. I. (2010). "God the Father": Religious coping to compensate for primary attachment figures during childhood crises. MPhil thesis, University of Cambridge, England, UK.
Keynote, Conference, and Seminar Presentations
Griffiths, A. I. (May 2014). Averting one's gaze beyond the looking glass: Retrieval Processes in Social Identification. Keynote Speech, VSPA International Conference on Identity, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Griffiths, A. I. (October 2013). A social memory approach to the formation and maintenance of the religious identity. Invited Seminar Presentation. Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
Griffiths, A. I. & MacLeod, M. D. (April 2013). Understanding the role of identity within processes of remembrance using experimental approaches in social and cognitive psychology. Conference Presentation. Euroacademia International Conference on Identities and Identifications: Politicised Uses of Collective Identities, Zagreb, Croatia.
Griffiths, A. I. & Kadioglu, P. (April 2013). Collective memory, identity, and inter-group conflict. Conference Presentation. Euroacademia International Conference on Identities and Identifications: Politicised Uses of Collective Identities, Zagreb, Croatia.
Griffiths, A. I. & MacLeod, M. D. (August 2012). The moderating impact of gender identification on retrieval-induced forgetting. Conference Presentation. Social Psychology Conference 2012, British Psychological Society, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK.
Griffiths, A. I. & MacLeod, M. D. (August 2011). Identity as a moderator of retrieval-induced forgetting. 5th International Conference on Memory, University of York, UK.
Griffiths, A. I. & MacLeod, M. D. (June 2011). Identity and self-relevance as moderators of retrieval-induced forgetting. Conference Presentation. The 12th European Congress of Psychology, Istanbul, Turkey.