CHER Director Team
Anita Laidlaw was a member of the team that created the Centre for Higher Education Research (CHER) in 2010, and has been involved in a directorial role in the centre since those beginnings. Ken Mavor has more recently taken on a co-director role in the centre. We hope to see the centre continue to make a valuable contribution to representing, developing, and facilitating higher education scholarship and research in the University.
Anita Laidlaw: Co-Director
Anita is a behavioural scientist and has two main areas of research relating to higher education; healthcare communication training and student wellbeing research. This work draws on theory from health psychology and education and utilises a variety of approaches, both qualitative and quantitative, to explore these topics.
- Healthcare communication training: as current deputy chair of the UK Council for Clinical Communication in Undergraduate Medical Education and previous lead for clinical communication training within the School of Medicine, University of St Andrews Anita is interested in understanding how to train medical students to effectively communicate with patients. She has a specific interest in clinical communication assessment and novel methods of encouraging empathy within healthcare interactions. This interest has led to a series of publications including national surveys of clinical communication assessment and support for students who perform poorly in clinical communication, alongside an invited AMEE guide on clinical communication assessment.
- Student wellbeing research: a sense of wellbeing is essential for effective communication and this sparked interest in medical student wellbeing. Whilst Anita does have an interest in medical student wellbeing, particularly social anxiety, burnout and coping strategies used by medical students to cope with these issues, her interest has broadened out. She is also examined wellbeing of higher education students, including mental wellbeing help seeking behaviour amongst higher education students and how higher education students with long term conditions manage these whilst at University.
Anita is also interested in the development of high quality educational research. This has led to roles which encourage such research including, Head of the Division of Education, one of the research divisions within the School of Medicine, University of St Andrews. She is also a board member of the Scottish Medical Education Research Consortium, an NHS Education Scotland funded consortium to promote high quality medical education research.
Ken Mavor: Co-Director
Ken is a social psychologist with interests in the processes of social and personal identity in a range of settings, including educational contexts. His research, scholarship, and innovations in the higher-education domain revolve around several long-standing themes.
- Research and scholarship of teaching and learning: inspired by the challenges of teaching research methods and statistics in Psychology, a topic that has been central to his academic teaching for over 20 years, Ken has always had an interest in student approaches to learning. This scholarly interest has led to a line of research publications around discipline identification, approaches to learning, and course evaluation.
- Social inclusion in higher education: As Honours coordinator in an Australian university in the early 2000’s, Ken remodelled the Psychology honours year to make it accessible for rural and remote Australians to pursue Psychology to this critical professional level. Ken continues this passion with a recent line of research looking at identity incompatibilities and roadblocks to learning, and collaborative research with colleagues at St Andrews on Gender-identity issues and student retention in STEM domains.
- Professional identity and student well-being: While working in Medical Education as an assessment specialist, Ken developed a line of research on professional identity and (medical) student well-being that continues at St Andrews.
Alongside his other self and identity research, Ken has published on higher-education specific topics in a range of journals including Medical Education, Educational Psychology, Social Psychology of Education, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Teaching and Learning in Medicine, Perspectives on Medical Education, & Instructional Science. He was also lead editor on a book published in 2017:
We are also grateful for the work of others who have played a directorial role for the Centre in the past.
Lorna Sibbett (Biology)
Antje Kohnle (Physics and Astronomy)
Ruth Woodfield (Management)
Fabio Arico (Economics)
Stephen Holmes (Divinity)