Bretford reveals iLab agile learning space research results

Lauren Williams's picture
Friday, June 28, 2013

Bretford Manufacturing, Inc.®, a United States manufacturer of technology-enabled furniture for agile learning and business environments, in partnership with Hillbrook School and HERO, Inc., today revealed results from a two-year research project that investigated the impact of the physical environment on learning. Through the support of Bretford, the independent co-educational PK-8 day school in Los Gatos, Calif. replaced its aging computer lab with an experimental, custom learning space called the Idea Laboratory or iLab, The compiled data supports how an agile learning space positively impacts teaching and learning.

Bretford is sharing an informational video about this research journey in its showroom (#355) during NeoCon 2013, June 10-12 in Chicago, booth (#619) at UBTech 2013, June 10-12 in Orlando, Fla., and booth (#13166) at ISTE 2013, June 23-26 in San Antonio, Texas. Detailed findings from this project are available in a new 49-page Hillbrook iLab Research Summary Guide. A complete copy of this guide is available by contacting a local Bretford® sales representative.  The story will also be presented by Don Orth, Director of Technology at Hillbrook School, during an Ignite session at ISTE, June 24 at 8:30 a.m.

“Several years back, Bretford began a research project to discover the best ways to support technology in the changing learning spaces, one of which included engaging teachers, students and decision-makers to capture the ‘voice of the classroom,’” said Chris Petrick, CEO for Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. “Through a lot of hard work, expertise and collaboration, we are finally able to show valid data that supports the effects the educational environment has on behavior and, in turn, how the furniture in these environments help create a positive change. We believe our research will set the stage for the evolution of the traditional classroom into a more agile, connected place to teach and learn.”

Hillbrook redesigned its traditional computer lab into the iLab following the success of its pilot 1:1 iPad program. As the iPad was introduced to the middle school students, the flow of the classroom began to shift — teaching and learning suddenly became more interesting and flexible. The iLab was then populated with Bretford mobile flip top tables, student chairs, mobile and interactive whiteboards, and soft seating. This gave everyone room to move, enabling and encouraging iLab users to manipulate their learning space as needed for class, group or individual work.

HERO, Inc. was brought in to design and conduct the iLab research project. Identical educational activities and projects in traditional learning spaces within the school were also measured as a point of comparison with the iLab. Data included onsite observations, student feedback, teacher evaluations, photos and videos. This evidence was used to assess student performance, engagement and confidence in both spaces.

Some of the key findings from this research include:

  • Behavior in the iLab is different than in the classroom: Students and teachers exhibited and noted more energy, engagement, movement, mobility and more interaction, both with others and the environment.
  • As a highly agile learning space, the iLab enables a wide variety of configurations that support both divergent thinking and convergent thinking.
  • The iLab is preferred over the traditional learning space by a wide margin.
  • The iLab has changed how teachers think about learning spaces.

“The learning paradigm is changing rapidly and learning spaces need to adapt,” said Dr. Tim Springer, founder of Hero, Inc. “The Hillbrook iLab project allowed us to examine how space affects learning and gather evidence to show how a highly agile space can support changes in teaching and learning.”

“The energy in the iLab is greater than in my classroom — I believe it is because of the movement,” said Christina Pak, a seventh and eighth grade history teacher at Hillbrook School. “Kids need both structure and change. The iLab has helped me think more about how the physical learning environment can spark students’ interest and help them think beyond.”

“If every classroom was like the iLab, you could adjust the space to meet your needs,” said a sixth grade student at Hillbrook School. “You could move as you needed to. You would be less distracted and better able to do your work.”

About Bretford Manufacturing, Inc.®

Bretford® is a manufacturer of furniture for both learning and work environments. Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Franklin Park, Ill., Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. ® holds more than six decades of expertise dedicated solely to the design and manufacture of sustainable furniture solutions that are made in the U.S. With nearly 350 employees and 450,000 square feet of production space, the company offers smart furniture designs that support evolving technology, enabling institutions, organizations and corporations to increase productivity and efficiency. Bretford® superior workmanship and environmentally-compliant manufacturing and operation practices ensure dependable products, many of which are GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified®. Bretford® is a CarbonNeutral® certified company and its EDU 2.0 line is among the first in the contract furniture industry to achieve CarbonNeutral® product certification. Bretford® products are backed by a 12-year standard warranty and the industry’s best 20-year standard warranty on library furniture. For more information about Bretford® visit or call 1-800-521-9614. Bretford® can also be followed on Twitter at

About Hillbrook School

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Hillbrook School provides an extraordinary JK-8 educational experience that fosters a love of learning in its students and helps them develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to achieve their highest individual potential in school and in life. To learn more about Hillbrook School, go to

About HERO, Inc.

Human Environmental Research Organization, Inc. (HERO, Inc.) is a Chicago–based consulting practice specializing in research, ergonomics, planning and change management of built environments. To learn more about HERO, Inc., go to