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 coordinating 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.