- Learners serve as resources for learning. Counter to the traditional view of teaching and learning where learners are seen as receptacles for knowledge to be filled, in a personalized learning environment learners are seen as key resources to build their learning and support the learning of other students. Learners are encouraged to make connections with prior learning, employ effective learning strategies, investigate and inquire, and bring new ideas and insights to their learning in addition to the instructional strategies and skills offered by educators.
- Space for learning flexibility. Environments that support personalized learning typically are not organized into rows of desks and assigned seats. Learners may be clustered around the room, learning in a variety of positions from sitting at tables, on the floor with other learners or comfortably on a cushion or beanbag chair. Learners are encouraged to find the position and location where they learn best without distracting others from learning. For more mature students learning likely is expanded beyond the classroom. They may be engaged in digital learning, a blended learning experience or even out in the community learning first-hand in areas of interest and an authentic manner.
- Commitment focus. While legacy learning environments typically depend on student compliance to assure order and completion of assigned work, personalized learning environments focus on stimulating and nurturing commitment to learning as the key driver for learning engagement and growth. Rather than how many problems to solve or how long an assignment should be, learner questions in a personalized learning environment are more likely to focus on understanding and mastery as drivers for learning effort.
- Collaboration. Contrary to the perceptions of some, personalized learning is not isolated learning. While some learning tasks and student work are best accomplished as learners are working alone, collaborative learning also plays a key role in a personalized environment. The question is not “either/or,” but what is the best fit for the learner and the learning task. Visitors to personalized learning environments are likely to see a variety of learning approaches: students working alone, in pairs, small groups and even in large gatherings in response to the learning challenges at hand.
- Technology supported. Also contrary to the assumptions of many, personalized learning is not technology driven. Rather technology is employed thoughtfully and strategically to support learning in the most effective and appropriate ways possible from the perspective of the learner. Personalized learning environments can be enhanced and made more efficient and learning options can be expanded with technology, but at the core, it is the shift in the roles of learners and educators and the employment of key learning and teaching processes that make the difference.
- Growing learning independence. Personalized learning environments are organized on the premise that learners are and will be their own best teachers. The work of educators is to build with learners their skills, knowledge and learning capacity to prepare them to succeed without external structures and direction to support their learning. In a personalized learning environment, the organization of learning tasks and the construction of paths to meet challenging standards actively involve the learner. Increasingly, learners are given driving choices and crucial voice in and responsibility for their learning.