Big Ideas

The Big Ideas represent four key understandings that are foundational to the Successful Learner Trait Framework.


When learning is viewed through the lens of the Successful Learner Traits, we gain very useful, positive, and important insights about our learners. Because we focus through a competency-based lens in addition to a content lens, we start to understand the ways in which we can support our learners to apply themselves more effectively. For example, we may notice a student struggling with a math concept; we observe the learner in light of the traits, considering how to support the child to help himself, or herself. We are actually teaching self-advocacy and efficacy while building inner capacity.

Perhaps we encourage the student to seek support if they have not, explaining that this is working smart, or being Strategic. We may notice instead that the learner requires explicit teaching of how to make careful observation, to think and connect what they already know as they work through the math problem. The opportunity here is to teach being Thoughtful. The Successful Learner Traits offer us meaningful and useful insights into supporting learning as we blend the teaching of the Traits with the teaching of curriculum content, the result: students who self-advocate, engage, and who are increasingly independent. 

Universal Across All Ages & Contexts

The Successful Learner Traits are relevant to learners of any age and within all learning contexts; as such they are universal. Consider the traits:  Thinking, Creativity, Compassion and being Industrious. These traits apply equally within play-based activities, a science lab class, or within a variety of professions. It is just as important to explicitly teach these traits in kindergarten as it is to teach the same traits to our older learners since the nature and complexity of how the Traits are applied deepens and broadens with age and the task.

Teachers of our youngest learners often marvel at how easily their students grasp and apply the traits. With older students, when we explicitly teach how to be Strategic or Thoughtful, and set up learning contexts where such capacities are required, the results are very rewarding. Many teachers note a greater level of independence and engagement and an increase in the quality of their students’ work and depth of thinking. 


By using the eight Successful Learner Traits as an appreciative lens through which to view learning across all ages, subject areas, and social contexts, teachers are offered a sustainable, or manageable, framework. Frequently in education, the effort to clearly describe and define outcomes in each subject area, often results in an unsustainable number of curricular outcomes. If a further mistake were made of describing how a set of competencies meshed within each subject area and its learning outcomes, the result becomes a greater proliferation of curricula. The effort to describe everything invariably will leave important aspects out and the ensuing list of descriptors becomes overwhelming and unmanageable.

The greatest downside of this proliferation however, is the loss of the ability to clarify for our students what counts. By leaving the Successful Learner Trait Framework as a set of eight clearly described traits, and by trusting both teachers and students to recognize the natural application of the traits within multiple contexts, the framework is manageable for teachers. Furthermore, students are provided with a very clear and consistent set of traits that apply within in a variety of life experiences.


Coherency is the fourth Big Idea and it is absolutely foundational! It is the critical prerequisite for the effective implementation of the SLT Framework. Coherency-within-practice occurs when we make crystal clear connections for our students between what is valued, taught, assessed, and reported on. Here, teaching and assessment are recognized as one synergistically integrated and continuous process; one that clearly reflects what is valued, or important, throughout all levels of practice.

When implementing the Successful Learner Trait Framework, Assessment for Learning strategies are used in order to uphold a coherent practice. Clear learning targets are set, questioning and self-reflection opportunities used, and descriptive feedback provided. For example, if Risk Taking and being Strategic are important, then we ensure that the learning experiences offered provide opportunity for the use and development of these traits. Additionally, we set very clear learning targets and use Assessment for Learning strategies in order to support deep learning.

How coherency is upheld throughout all levels of practice, especially within reporting or the Communication of  Student Learning, is a topic discussed in the Implementation section of this site.