Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

Student Experiences: How I Prepared for my Open Graduate Defence

March 20, 2018
By: Ian Matheson

Being examined in front of your peers

"I don't know many people that would be excited by the prospect, and I'm certainly not one of them."

Knowing that you are going to be examined in front of your peers is daunting. I don't know many people that would be excited by the prospect, and I'm certainly not one of them. I think I’ll always remember the tightening I had in my stomach that wouldn’t go away as the weeks became days, and the days became hours. I always knew that I was building to this, but I think I was short-sighted throughout grad school—focused on the next task directly in front of me.

Advice to see it as a conversation about your work

"It absolutely will go down as one of the richest and most stimulating conversations I will ever be a part of."

While my nerves faded as I eventually got going and started working through questions, I think it was the advice I received that did the most for me. How it was said differed, but the common thread was to see it as a conversation about your work. A chance to discuss something you’ve invested so much in with people who have gotten to know it. I came to see it as a privilege. I thought, how lucky am I to get this opportunity to talk about my work with people who are interested in it and who want to help me? It absolutely will go down as one of the richest and most stimulating conversations I will ever be a part of.

Remember the Conversations

"As challenging, thoughtful, and beneficial as my questions were, none of them were really a surprise, and I don’t think they should be."

Thinking back to the questions, I think that just about all of them had come up at least once over a pot of tea, meeting at the faculty, or some other conversation with a member of my team. My advice for anyone preparing would be to take note of those conversations. Remember the sticky points and tough decisions. As challenging, thoughtful, and beneficial as my questions were, none of them were really a surprise, and I don’t think they should be.