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The Breakout Method

The Breakout Method

Our Philosophy

Plato and Socrates had it right. Humans learn best from storytelling and rich, small-group discussions. Humans learned this way for centuries and it’s been proven through countless academic studies as the most effective format for every type of student.

It’s even the cornerstone of our judicial system: a small peer group of jury members is entrusted to listen to the evidence and then decide, discuss and defend their positions.

But if scenario-based learning and small group discussions are so powerful, why aren’t we using them these days and instead deferring to textbooks and scantrons that teach students to regurgitate facts?

Simply put, discussions don't scale. They logistically can’t be implemented in today’s large classrooms. And trying to create them through group homework doesn’t work: teachers have little to no visibility into the process. Some students dominate the discussion, others don’t talk at all. And the list of issues goes on.

But Breakout, using AI, has solved these problems—and more—with a brand new learning format.

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Academic Advisory Board

For each of our academic fields, we appoint a board of leading professors to oversee the development of instructional materials. This includes crafting the curriculum and recruiting academic authors to work alongside our instructional designers and creative teams.

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Olav Sorensen, Ph.D.

Olav Sorensen, Ph.D.

Making the Case

Stories and small-group discussions are the most powerful combination for learning. We’ve dusted off a classic tool for using scenarios to set up discussions—the case study—and reimagined it for the modern era as a multifaceted experience.

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Instructional Design

To align with our format, all of our cases are constructed with a backwards design: we start with key learning concepts and create the learning experience around them.

Breakout’s academic authors identify the concepts along with real-world scenarios that illustrate them. Our in-house instructional design and creative storytelling team then builds engaging content that brings these scenarios to life.

Pre-Work
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Pre-Work

Before diving into the group session, students must read or listen to the Pre-Work. If the experience includes a Pre-Work Podcast, students can independently listen to a professionally produced podcast that introduces them to the main players in the experience and lays the groundwork for the learning objectives. The audio storytelling format is a great match for the busy lifestyles of today’s students, who grew up listening to podcasts. However, for more visual learners, there’s also an option to read a Pre-Work PDF which includes the same key background information.

Pre-session Quiz

After they listen to or read the Pre-Work, students may take a short quiz to see how well they understood the material.

In 1966, the first AI-powered chatbot, ELIZA first appeared.

Engaging Content
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Engaging Content

Next, students meet with their small groups on Breakout's platform, where they encounter immersive content that sets the stage for a vibrant discussion.

Every Breakout experience includes some combination of discussion prompts, videos, polls and/or quizzes.

Because today’s students grew up with tools like YouTube, most prefer multimedia content and immersive learning experiences that mirror the real world.

Breakout Originals are designed to place students into the shoes of decision-makers. Students are prompted to discuss what they would do when faced with tough decisions.

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Peer-led Discussion Groups

Students now engage in a meaningful discussion about the material. There’s no better way to develop critical-thinking skills than to practice live discussion and debate in a small group.

Students are given the opportunity to listen to each other, try out their ideas, and facilitate their own conversations. They may encouter additional exhibits, such as financial statements, to help them support their claims and challenge others’ views. They have to use their communication and collaboration skills. Shy students, who are terrified of being cold-called to speak in front of the entire class, have a chance to build their confidence. And above all, students are given the space to think and speak their minds.

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AI Assessment

As students engage in small-group discussions, magic is happening. Our platform captures a real-time transcript and runs it against a series of rubrics designed to measure the desired learning outcomes of the experience.

Instructors can log onto our platform and see a dashboard with detailed data and insights from their students' completed sessions.

In this way, Breakout gives instructors a window into their students' small-group performance, which leads to more engaging and powerful debrief.

It’s also a more objective and fair way to assess students, and everyone saves time along the way. Breakout doesn't ask students to complete any additional writing assignments (a meaningless exercise in the post ChatGPT world), and there's nothing for instructors or TAs to grade. All of our assessment data integrates seamlessly with most major LMSs.

Quiz Scores

Quiz Scores

Seeing how well students performed on quizzes before and during a Breakout session helps instructors decide what they need to reinforce in the debrief. 

Poll Results

Poll Results

Instructors can see how students voted in each poll and weave those poll results into their classroom discussions.

Relevant Comments

Highlighted Comments

On the Summary tab, instructors can review the AI's highlighted comments from students who performed well on any given rubric—and can use those comments to recognize high-performing individuals during the debrief.

The data not only helps instructors with evaluation, but it also turns them into astonishing mind readers, as they are able to debrief each Breakout experience in a targeted, engaging way.

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Lesson Rubrics

Most importantly, professors can see how each group—and each individual student—performed against a grading rubric the case author developed to measure the learning objectives.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

All of our rubrics apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to assess the depth of the students’ understanding. 

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Create
Generate new ideas, products, or interpretations.
Evaluate
Assess the value, validity, or effectiveness of claims, decisions, or points of view.
Analyze
Break complex information into parts and examine their relationships.
Apply
Use acquired knowledge to solve problems, complete tasks, or apply ideas.
Understand
Grasp the meaning of information by interpreting or summarizing it.
Remember
Retain facts, terms, or concepts without deep understanding.

Always Evolving

We never stop innovating; while we developed our format for use as a group assignment outside of class time, it now can be used as an in-class exercise. And while our initial launch is in business education, we’ll soon be tackling other fields from nursing and psychology to history and lab science.