An AEW is a small community of students working collaboratively to master course material with the guidance of a facilitator. The AEW is designed to give students the opportunity to enhance their learning experience for a particular course. The facilitator for an AEW is trained to develop exercises that forester debate in key elements that have historically given students difficulty and impeded the learning process. As a result of this interaction the students gain both a sense of connectedness and the development of their learning community.
A typical Academic Excellence Workshop can range in size from 5‑15 students, with an average of 9 students, all enrolled in designated sections of the course (mathematics, chemistry, physics, or engineering mechanics). Homework and readings are to be attempted prior to the workshop. These students voluntarily meet twice a week for 2-hour sessions to work selected problems at least as difficult as the homework, under the guidance of an undergraduate student facilitator who prepares the worksheets after consultation with the lecture professor. The facilitator guides the students to work in small groups to solve the problems and to discuss the correctness of the steps taken and the accuracy of the answer. Specifically, the facilitator’s primary function is to create an atmosphere where the students feel secure in asking questions, in making mistakes, and in learning from each other. Ideally, the sources of information become the other students rather than the facilitator.