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Other Lab partner is more competent than me and tends to steamroll

  • Thread starter Drokrath
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I'm currently taking a sophomore-level circuits/electronics lab. My lab partner just transferred from out of state in January, and is already probably in the top three in our class in general. He does very well in the two classes I share with him and seems to have fantastic discipline. The course isn't particularly challenging, I have a high A currently.

The problem is that he has much higher standards and is much more capable than I am. I could deal with this earlier in the semester when we were doing labs and writing separate reports. He could write his own detailed and extensive report, and I would write my own. The problem arose recently, as we began doing weekly "projects", where we have to write a joint report together.

I do my best to contribute and write sections of the report, but for the past three weeks he has gone back later and re-written all of the sections I wrote. I can't really argue with this, because his writing is simply just better than what I can do. I don't think my ability is below average for the class, though it's difficult to tell as I've only had him as a partner. I think he just has higher standards than the rest of the class does. He also comes to our meetings/class with the reports outlined and half-written. Last week, we were about halfway through writing the report, and he told me I could just go ahead and leave and he would finish up the rest.

I feel no ownership of the work that is being done, and I feel like an incompetent idiot when trying to collaborate with him. He's usually polite about it, and never demeans me or anything. I can just tell that he doesn't think my work is good enough to turn in under his name (even if my name is on it as well). I also can't warrant spending a ton of extra time being a perfectionist about this class that I have an almost guaranteed A in when I am taking other classes where I'm in danger of dropping to a C, and could be studying for those.

I'm not really sure what I'm looking for here, just a place to vent or get advice I suppose. I'm just not really sure what to do and i feel utterly useless. I've talked to my girlfriend about it and she's of the opinion that it's his problem if he wants to be a perfectionist, but this doesn't make me feel any better about myself.
 
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It's hard for me to sympathize much for your plight. The thing about working in collaboration with another student is that both students get the same grade. A problem with this that some students complain about is that not everyone in the group puts in the same amount of effort, yet all get the same grade.

Even though you say you currently have a high A in the class so far, the rest of what you wrote suggests to me that you are happy to just coast along, and put more effort into the classes you're not doing as well in. Your girlfriend can describe him as a perfectionist, but from your description of him as being well-prepared when he comes to class and highly disciplined makes me think that he's an excellent student, and doesn't want to have his name associated with what he perceives as substandard work. You didn't describe the changes he's made to the work you've done on the joint reports, so I don't know what his criteria are.

I see two possible choices for you -- either accept the status quo, or put in the extra effort necessary so that your work is taken more seriously by the other student.
 
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You should probably be very grateful for him and learn from him.
 

Choppy

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It sounds to me like this is something you need to talk about with your lab partner. Learning to effectively navigate and advance a joint project is one of those soft skills that can be very important in a person's career. Even if your partner ends up with a great grade in the class, if he's undermining your efforts without your consent, that's a behaviour that's likely to get him into trouble at some point (not necessarily with you).
 

Vanadium 50

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It's not clear what you want to happen.
 
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It sounds to me like this is something you need to talk about with your lab partner. Learning to effectively navigate and advance a joint project is one of those soft skills that can be very important in a person's career. Even if your partner ends up with a great grade in the class, if he's undermining your efforts without your consent, that's a behaviour that's likely to get him into trouble at some point (not necessarily with you).
This. How much time is he spending on these assignments? Is the amount unique to this class or across his entire curriculum? What about in comparison to the other top students, both current and previous? What do other students think about it?

A lack of skill of properly working together is something that can destroy not merely careers but lives as well, in particular that of the person incapable of working together. Perfectionism, often rampant and praised within science education, is actually not always as good as is it is claimed to be.
 
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When you read the re-written report, do you find yourself thinking, "oh crap, I didn't realize that"? Or do you think "yes, that's what I meant, nicely said"?
 

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