The reflective action planning model emerged out of a professional dialogue between two individuals representing two quite different institutions, a school and an HEI. One of those individuals, David Frost, was the leader of an HEI-based, part-time advanced diploma course for teachers, and the other, Jim Nixon, was an experienced secondary school teacher who was a student on the course. The diploma course had been devised to support curriculum leadership but there was a discernible gap between the marketing rhetoric and the reality of the course as it was experienced by the participating teachers. In a tutorial a few months into the course, Jim Nixon was apologetic because he could not meet the deadline for an assignment, a paper about staff appraisal; his reason was that he was extremely busy at school co-ordinating a professional development day to be held in the near future. David, as the tutor, asked what might seem to be the obvious question: ‘Why are you writing about appraisal when your major professional concern is the co-ordination of a staff development event?’ This question had a revelatory effect; it was the beginning of a creative dialogue which led to the launching of a pilot school-based programme led jointly by David and Jim.
In subsequent discussions, Jim and David explored their beliefs and values about programmes of in-service education and training for teachers (INSET) and later led a seminar on the subject. At the time, the term ‘INSET’ was used as a label for a commodity consisting largely of content-based training programmes delivered at an HEI, a teachers’ centre, a hotel or the school itself. An examination of the issues explored in that seminar reveals the thinking which underpinned the pilot project.
The seminar about INSET began with a discussion about the tension between the individualistic and collective purposes of staff development. Jim and David took issue with the idea that teachers have an entitlement to support for their personal intellectual development regardless of the relevance to their professional practice, career development or school development. The