Alex Harrop (1935–2016)

An appreciation.

Alex passed away suddenly on 10 May. He was former Head of Psychology and later Director of the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University. Alex first became interested in psychology when training to be a teacher. Whilst teaching he studied part-time to gain an external degree from London University. He then began teaching psychology to trainee teachers at C.F. Mott College in Liverpool. It was while at C.F. Mott that, together which educational psychologist colleagues Eddie McNamara, Colin Critchley and Nancy Crawford he began a series of studies looking at the application of behavioural methods to improve pupils’ learning and behaviour. These studies led to his first book, Behaviour Modification in the Classroom, which was pioneering for its time in introducing teachers to evidence-based practice that could enhance their teaching and improve their pupils’ behaviour. Behaviour Modification in the Classroom was to stay in print for over 20 years, a testament to its popularity.

C.F. Mott College was later absorbed into the City of Liverpool College of Higher Education, which subsequently merged with other colleges to form Liverpool Polytechnic, eventually becoming Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) in 1992. Alex was Head of the Centre for Applied Psychology before becoming Director of the School. His responsibilities in developing the Centre and then as Director of a large School meant that he published less. However, when in 1999 he retired from LJMU he began a series of half a dozen papers on teachers’ verbal behavior, which led to a second book, Positive Psychology for Teachers, as well as papers on bullying in school, attitudes of students in higher education, and the effectiveness of part-time study. A paper he wrote with an Italian colleague, due out shortly, is in the final stages of publication. He also had time to complete a thriller, Everyman’s Hand, published last year. He was in the middle of his second novel at the time of his untimely death.

Alex had a passion for psychology, a passion he was able to pass onto his students. He loved teaching and genuinely appreciated his students, who in turn valued his inspirational approach. His colleagues recognised the importance of having such a leader during periods of considerable change with the shifts from college, through polytechnic, and finally university Alex was able to ensure that what could have been turbulent times were negotiated with relative ease. Alex will be remembered as a man of great energy and compassion.

Throughout his career he has been responsible for the training of hundreds of teachers and probably more than a thousand psychologists all of whom will remember him with great affection. He was a pioneer in the application of psychology in the classroom and made a highly significant contribution to the development of psychology in Liverpool. He was loved by all who knew him and will be greatly missed for his kindness, compassion and good humour. He leaves a widow Sally, two sons and six grandchildren.

Jeremy Swinson
Eddie McNamara
Les Lancaster

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