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Middle Leadership Blog Series Practice Post 1

Applying pedagogy and andragogy for effective meetings

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Who is this blog post for: Current or emerging middle leaders and for senior leaders or Headteachers who are developing middle leaders.

Author:  Lisa Ramshaw 

Posted on: 18th July 2023

Keywords: skills; pedagogy; andragogy; self-awareness; self-reflection; transition; transfer


How did you transition into a middle leader? More often than not, it was because you had demonstrated high skill as a teacher, teaching pupils. In my experience, senior leadership teams are usually willing to promote someone to a middle leadership position because they were effective in their teaching practice and were able to influence others in that process. However, it is important to consider how the skills of being an effective teacher can translate into the effective leadership of adults. 

As stated in the previous reflection post, leading and supporting adults has similarities to, but is also significantly different from, leading and teaching young people: this is pedagogy versus andragogy. Switching between the two sets of stakeholders, sometimes multiple times per day, is a skill that is constantly demanded of middle leaders. This is where understanding the difference between pedagogy and andragogy can be useful – knowing which hat to wear and when. 

Pedagogy is predominantly focused on how children learn effectively, whereas andragogy is focused on how adults learn. The table below highlights the differences between pedagogy and andragogy: 

Naturally, however, there is a sliding continuum between these two columns. If you are a Primary school teacher, teaching young children, the difference between pedagogy and andragogy is most likely more pronounced than a high school teacher, teaching young adults. If you get the opportunity, try to collaborate with middle leaders both vertically and horizontally within your school or group of schools, so you can gain a more nuanced understanding of the differences. 


As a senior leader in schools, I used to say often: ‘What we expect of our pupils, we should expect of our teachers, and what we expect of our teachers, we should expect of our leaders’. This layered model of expectations can be a powerful driving force as we consider the transition from teaching to leadership. 

As can be seen from the above table, one of those common expectations in both pedagogy and andragogy is learning. If we expect teachers and leaders to continue learning, as we expect of our pupils, and this is transparent to pupils, this modelling can promote a sustainable culture of powerful learning. 

Now let’s consider when teacher learning may take place. Usually, it is within a team meeting, or a specific professional development session. If we focus on how to lead effective meetings and how to create a culture of learning among team members, what skills should a middle leader possess and exhibit to promote teacher learning? The next two sections aim to consider the skills that can be transferred from your classroom into leading your team, and those skills that may need developing to be more adult-focused. 


In this next section, we consider aspects of pedagogy that could transfer directly into how you run effective meetings. 

Establishing norms and agreements 

Boudett and Lockwood (2019) state that shared agreements about how groups work together “can play a powerful role in eliciting the breadth of perspectives that is needed for a group of educators to tackle hard problems.” Being explicit about what you agree as a team can ensure all colleagues are working from the same page and therefore promote equitable and productive discussions. In addition, Boudett and Lockwood (2019) share that norms can also boost the “joy factor” in collaborative work and also remove you as the authoritarian in the room. If all team members create and agree on norms together, you’ll be amazed to see, as with your pupils, how team members then hold each other accountable, saving you that job in meetings! 

Clear objectives and intentions 

Pettersson and Briggs (2019) believe productive and efficient meetings are intentional in that every meeting has a clear purpose and an agenda. Colleagues can then understand their relevance in the meeting, and hence make commitments on how they will work together, clearly defining roles and responsibilities. As with norms and agreements, these don’t always have to be set by you. You could engage your colleagues in intention setting from one meeting to the next, so colleagues also have ownership for some of the agenda items. 

Learning activities 

People engage with learning in different ways and for different reasons, just as your pupils do in your class. There are a number of different theories relating to learning styles and preferences, and corresponding activities. In my experience, Honey and Mumford’s (1992) learning style theory has been effective when working with adults.  

Honey and Mumford (1992) identified four learning styles and terms used to describe a person – activist, pragmatist, reflector and theorist. Activists are those who learn by doing and action; pragmatists are those who learn when they perceive that their learning could be put into practice in the real world; reflectors are those who learn by observing others and taking time to reflect on the details of ideas or discussion points; and theorists are those who learn by understanding the theory behind something, i.e., the why.  

As we think about our role in team meetings, it is important to consider how we ensure there is action, application, reflection and evaluation, whilst ensuring there is also clear theoretical reasoning. This will depend on what our intentions are and what we are hoping to achieve as a team.  

I once delivered a professional development session on learning activities for adults, and it was wonderful to hear this ‘aha’ moment as a colleague reflected on their leadership practice:  

“I have been doing this wrong the whole time - I’ve always expected my team to think and behave like I do, and that’s just not the case!” 


Andragogy acknowledges that we as adults learn a little differently from children and this element needs to be respected as we move into leadership. Three of the standout features for me are: 

  • the role of adults as active participants, involved in decision-making; 
  • the emphasis on self-direction and choice – the ability to explore and problem-solve, whilst ensuring relevance and applicability; 
  • the need to ensure that the experience of adults is not only considered but used. 

In this next section, we consider these aspects of andragogy that could help drive how you run effective meetings. 

More often than not, meetings are run with the leader talking through each agenda item, whilst expecting a series of polite nods until the meeting ends. There may be some discussion sprinkled in, but ultimately the meeting is a passive occasion to most colleagues. I’m sure you have been in those meetings yourself, and they don’t necessarily feel like a good use of your time.  

What if we ensured that the purpose of every meeting was to learn from each other, share experiences and explore and solve problems that have immediate relevance to your own practice? 

All too often, teachers expect leaders to solve their problems and have all the solutions, and as a new middle leader that pressure to have all the answers can be felt, especially as we are so used to providing solutions to pupils. Before you know it, you are swamped with multiple queries every day from individual teachers. If you can develop practices whereby team members are able to support and develop each other, you can reduce the amount of queries that come your way and take up so much of your time.  

Collaboration is a practice of distributed leadership (Diamond, 2015; Gronn, 2002) and is defined as the “ability of a team to work well together in which team members can stay problem-focused, listen to and understand one another, feel free to take risks, and be willing to compensate for one another” (Northouse, 2016, p. 370). It is something I was passionate about modelling through meetings and professional development in the teams that I worked with. The meetings were mostly aligned to the organizational functions of the school and were used to review current programmes, products and practices, and I always ensured that I explained the ‘why’ of certain decisions, before we collaboratively agreed on the ‘how’, maintaining transparency. Transparency was one of our agreed norms.  

However, working in this manner also aided collective distribution in which leaders worked interdependently together, but were clear about what they needed to work on separately (Diamond, 2015), therefore it was also a practice that continued outside meetings. The multiple queries I used to get every day of “do you have 2 minutes” drastically reduced.  


  • Boudett, K. and Lockwood, M., (2019). The power of team norms. Educational Leadership, 76 (9), pp.12-17. 
  • Diamond, J. (2015). What is distributive leadership? In Griffiths, D., & Portelli, J. (Eds.), Key Questions for Educational Leaders (pp.151-156). Burlington, Ontario: Word & Deed Publishing Inc. & EdPhil. 
  • Gronn, P. (2002). Distributed leadership as a unit of analysis. Leadership Quarterly, 13(20), 423-451.  
  • Honey P., and Mumford A. (1992) Setting the Scene for Learning Styles. The Manual of Learning Styles. Berkshire Peter Honey (1-4). 
  • Jeanes, E., (2021). A meeting of mind (sets). Integrating the pedagogy and andragogy of mindsets for leadership development. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 39, p.100758. 
  • Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. Association Press. 
  • Loeng, S. (2023). Pedagogy and Andragogy in Comparison – Conceptions and Perspectives. Studies in Adult Education and Learning, 1–14. 
  • Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.   
  • Pettersson, H. and Briggs, K., (2019). The Meeting Is Dead, Long Live the Meeting. The Education Gadfly, 19 (34).