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The NCT, a reflexive exercise

E. Jardin & C. Schoch

Emmanuel Duplàa has a PhD in Education Sciences from the University of Maine in Le Mans, specialized in distance teaching. He did his thesis in the framework of a CIFRE agreement (Convention Industrielle de Formation par la Recherche en Entreprise) in Education Sciences, and currently works with Téluq on medical distance learning (Telemedecine). Shortly before defending his thesis, he embarked on the “new chapter in the thesis” (NCT) experience. What did it do for him?

1/ How did you find out about the NCT?
I’d heard about it at my university and I was very interested in finding out how to convert the academic knowledge gained during the doctorate into professional skills and to learn how to clarify them. In short, to elucidate the added value of the thesis.

2/ How did your NCT go?
With the help of a “mentor,” we spelled out a variety of implicit aspects (presentation of my thesis, progression, cost management and evaluation, skills and know-how). Since I was familiar with the continuing education milieu because I’d worked as a trainer in an engineering school during my thesis, drafting a resume, knowing how to sell yourself and all that wasn’t new to me. However, there was another PhD student during our work sessions. He had never left his laboratory bench and he was a little out of touch with the professional environment. These three-way meetings (two graduate students and a mentor) were very beneficial.

3/ What did it do for you if you were already familiar with all those career-planning aspects?
First of all, the NCT gave me time to settle down for a while and play the movie backwards. My thesis topic had been developed in conjunction with four different partners: two French engineering schools, a Canadian academic department and a French university. I took stock of everything: my personal motivations to undertake a PhD, getting the partnership together… I went back over all my email correspondence to rebuild the program and assess the cost of the thesis. How can I put it? While working on a thesis in the framework of a CIFRE agreement, you’ve got your nose to the grindstone, working as hard as you can because time is limited. The opportunity to go back over the whole experience, to loop the loop so to speak, is really very interesting.

4/ Could you be more specific?
In a thesis, you don’t have the right to say why you chose a given topic. You don’t mix appreciation and fact. There, I sought out my own personal motivations. And then I quantified everything, I counted the volumes of information processed, I took apart the whole partnership procedure… I fact, I had a reflexive look on my own academic work and in the end, I transformed my NCT into a chapter that served to illustrate the hypothesis I had about praxis by doing a practical description of the intellectual process involved in doing a thesis.

5/ If I understand correctly, your NTC nourished your own theoretical outlook?
Exactly. Since I’m specialized in education sciences, the NCT process in itself interested me. To tell the truth, that was my primary motivation for getting involved in the program sponsored by the Association Bernard Gregory.

Interview conducted by Evelyne Jardin April 26, 2006.