In Chapter 2 we explained how the ideas underpinning this approach to school improvement were developed through a pilot project. This led to the conception of the reflective action planning process as a model for teacher-led school improvement. In this chapter, we set out the fundamental principles underpinning the model. We outline ways in which the school/HEI partnership can be established, and suggest strategies for the setting up of a RAP (reflective action planning) group in a school. In Chapter 4 we will consider each element of the process in detail.
Evidence from the scheme operating in Kent schools (gathered primarily in the course of the ESACS Project, see Chapter 4) shows that participants experience a wide range of benefits as a result of their involvement. They have enhanced opportunities for professional learning, including input from the group sessions, guided reading and systematic research around their chosen focus, increased networking within and beyond the school, development of professional competence (for example, through leading sessions, reporting to different audiences, experimenting with pedagogy), and greater self-awareness through a more reflective approach to practice and through critical feedback from colleagues. They frequently describe an increase in confidence and self-worth as commitment and expertise in a particular curriculum area becomes known and is often recognized formally by the school through promotion or the allocation of additional responsibilities. This is accompanied by a generally higher profile amongst the staff, with an increased ability and willingness to express ideas and opinions and a greater feeling of autonomy. The individual voice is strengthened by the power of systematic inquiry in providing a strong basis of evidence for effecting change. As they become more established as members of the group and more experienced in the reflective action planning process, participants begin to see themselves increasingly as change agents in the context of the school development process as a whole, valuing the support of the group in providing a positive and confidential forum for testing ideas and discussing issues and problems.
Finally, a recurring theme in evaluations of the model is the extent to which the programme provides stimulation, challenge, enjoyment and motiva-