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January 22, 2010 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Most of the people in my class have expressed interest in setting up a group to work together outside of class. I'm only interested in working with the few I feel are on my skill level. What's the best way to ask the people I am interested in working with without hurting the feelings of the others?

The classmates that I don't want to work with are all good people and potential friends, but I feel that their skill level is quite a bit lower than mine. I'd like to work on more advanced concepts in practice and feel that having them in the group would prevent this.

This is a creative class, so the judgment of who is "skilled" is somewhat subjective and I see a lot of potential for hurt feelings.

How have you dealt with this in the past?
posted by hamsterdam to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just wanted to add that the activity almost exclusively involves group work. It's not like a writing class where individuals do separate work and then meet together to discuss it.
posted by hamsterdam at 10:55 AM on January 22, 2010


Don't be a dick and work with these people.

If you are truly "skilled" you should be able to lift the performance of your peers to a whole new level. In any field turning mediocre people into great people is what truly shows that someone is talented.
posted by uandt at 11:05 AM on January 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Furthermore, your in-class reputation gets back to the professor. Get into a group, do great work, and your instructor will find out. Cream always rises, etc etc.
posted by unixrat at 11:08 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to steer the comments a little, since I see where they're going: My goal is for my own personal skills development. It's not an academic setting and there's no one to impress other than my peers. To make an analogy, if this were a basketball team, some people need to work on learning how to dribble and some people need to work on running plays on offense. I'm ok with practicing my dribbling but I can't work on plays with people who can't dribble the ball.
posted by hamsterdam at 11:13 AM on January 22, 2010


Allow everyone to participate, but keep the group focused on the more advanced concepts you want to practice. That way, your group members are the ones to determine if they are up for it or not.
posted by juliplease at 11:16 AM on January 22, 2010


Huh? The unskilled or lazy don't have a fundamental right to be carried along by the OP. Of course, the post assumes that s/he is as good as s/he thinks s/he is.

OP, just ask the people you want to work with and suss out whether or not they want to do a project with you that excludes the others (they may not). If you're all in agreement, just come up with a project that needs only your group. Once you've set the parameters of the project, if one of the excluded people really wants to participate, talk with them about the scope and demands of the project; if they're really just dribbling, they'll drop off. But I think the key is to set the bar high to begin with (without the others) and then let them decide that they're not up to snuff.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:16 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


So you are in a class with people of different skill levels. The way I've seen this handled in other contexts, is for there to be an extended session. The first half is focused on the basics, the second half on the advanced concepts. People would self-select into the groups they wanted, and since the sessions were concurrent, people of middle skills could stick around for both sessions.
I can't see any tactful way of you trying to select who goes to the advanced portion. I think it would go over much better if you suggested an advanced level session, and lay out the topics you want to cover, or some other session structure that makes clear what skill levels are expected and what will be covered.
posted by forforf at 11:24 AM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Go to an initial meeting with a larger group and then afterward suggest that people meet to work on advanced skills later.

I have found that teaching people skills sets that I've learned helps me to learn things even better. I think that the ideal study group involves someone who is better than you and someone who is worse than you.

My experience relates more to less "creative" fields, so obviously this may not apply to you.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:26 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can approach the people you do want to work with privately. You can say, perhaps somewhat truthfully, that you don't want to work in a group that includes everyone because large groups are hard to manage. Exclusions can always lead to hurt feelings, but adults should and generally do understand that not everyone is always going to want to do the same things as them, with them.

This may be hard because there have already been broad discussions about working in a group, but you can take a stand and explain that you don't want to work in a huge group. (And you will have to convince some chosen collaborators to go along with you.)

I don't think you have any obligation to invest in the skills of the bottom of the class, although it would be a nice thing to do and has some upsides.
posted by grobstein at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2010


How many people are you thinking about asking? For a small group, say less than five, I would kind of be (my version of) subtle about it. I'd go up to each person and mention Advanced Topic X and see whether or not they were interested in joining a small group to work on those skills.

Then you can say, "I bet _____, _____, and ____ would be a good addition to our group. I don't want to make it a huge thing because I think this topic works best with a small group."

If another class member brings it up to you ('why wasn't I invited?!?!) just say that you were trying to keep it small because you can focus more with less people.
posted by amicamentis at 11:36 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seconding sciencegeek. We studied in groups in college and grad school all of the time. I had to really understand what I was doing in order to teach someone who wasn't as skilled, and having more skilled peers helped me out when I had no idea what I was doing. That said, setting up a second group for more advanced work would let you try out advanced work without insulting anyone.
posted by golden at 11:37 AM on January 22, 2010


I can totally understand your desire to work with only people of a certain skill level. Otherwise, the focus of the group could easily get bogged down in the basics, and you won't end up learning anything or getting feedback you can use.

Here is what I would do. Get the contact information of the people you want to work with. If necessary, by getting everyone's contact info. And then only contact the people you want to work with, and set up a time outside of class to meet. Don't let the rest of the class know about it. Because, really, there's no way you can say, "Hey, I don't think you're skilled enough to be in this group" without hurting someone's feelings.
posted by overglow at 11:40 AM on January 22, 2010


"I'm only interested in working with the few I feel are on my skill level."

This makes you sound a tad bit pompous and exclusive.

The question you are asking:
What's the best way to ask the people I am interested in working with without hurting the feelings of the others?

Excellent phrasing. Seems like you are looking for selectively approaching people. There are two ways to put this out there.
One is tactically and the other is openly. Tactfully, you risk losing more potential friends and have to learn to be tactful, which can come across as sneaky too. In this case, you would meet people while they are alone or approach them asking to talk to them personally where you would express to them your intention of working with advanced techniques you want to try out and feel they were a good match. The plus side of this is people know that you are thinking of them in a positive light.
In the event that somebody wants to learn from you, you may turn them away because you want to focus on your own goals and I feel that's being a bit of a [insert what you don't like being called here] because you don't want to help at all.

On the other hand being open means at the end of class saying guys I have a small announcement to make. I really like this class and am interested in experimenting with some advanced techniques like such and such and was wondering if any of you guys would be willing to step up and experiment. This is where you can ask for volunteers or steer the last sentence and come across as "I have a few names down here who I think may be interested in working with me, then announce "you don't have to say yes so feel free not to engage in this"" and announce the names thereby allowing you to pick people and then looking for volunteers if need be.

"The classmates that I don't want to work with are all good people and potential friends, but I feel that their skill level is quite a bit lower than mine."

Yes I've been there before.

"I'd like to work on more advanced concepts in practice and feel that having them in the group would prevent this."

Your aims are noble.

"This is a creative class, so the judgment of who is "skilled" is somewhat subjective and I see a lot of potential for hurt feelings."

Yes, the potential for hurt feelings is there. However, people need to learn to accept that not everyone can be in one group.

"How have you dealt with this in the past?"

I believe so but don't remember when.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 11:44 AM on January 22, 2010


Based on past experiences in creative (writing) classes, you should be prepared for the possibility of hurt feelings if you follow through. It's like inviting 8 out of 10 friends with common ties to a party and hoping the 8 invited guests won't let it slip accidentally. That's not saying you shouldn't do it - it's your party. But there's always that chance.

A simpler approach, if it works in your situation, might be to single out just one person in the group and asking if they'd like to do some advanced work together. That way it's less of an exclusive club and more of a partnership of people with like interests. I can't see anyone being terribly hurt by that.

Is this something you could frame less as a matter of skill (which, as you've said, can be subjective) and more one of differing styles? Less 'you suck and I don't want to work with you,' more 'we have different approaches to ____ and I wanted to work with someone with a more similar approach to my own'?

Also, you might get more specific suggestions if we knew what kind of creative class and what sort of advanced concepts you were talking about.
posted by nicoleincanada at 1:24 PM on January 22, 2010


You could as specific people to join you in a study group. Study groups are always limited in membership. You could create a project and ask specific people to work with you on it.

You might be surprised by who's at your level and who isn't.
posted by theora55 at 2:35 PM on January 22, 2010


Here's what you do.

Start with one person, go to them and say, hey Bob you and me, let's do this thing. From that people will assume this is just you and your buddy Bob doing something and will not intrude nor care.

But then you and Bob can begin slowly picking and choosing who you want, and that way, nobody feels left out cause they never assumed to be in anyway.

The end.
posted by Like its 1997 at 6:23 PM on January 22, 2010


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