Theme courses are a common practice despite their limited presence in composition scholarship, which contributes to a fractured understanding of the theme course’s purpose and place in the discipline. This article offers an aggregate picture of theme (or topic) based courses based on disparate scholarly publications and affirmed by data collected through an online survey of writing instructors and program administrators. To trace the theme course within our disciplinary tradition and as a continuing practice, this article defines the theme course, distinguishing between writing as subject matter and theme content as a form of reinforcement. It furthermore historicizes the theme course’s limited life in scholarship, synthesizing key features of theme course practice, reinforced by survey responses. Ultimately, this article offers a framework for reflective practice that all theme course practitioners can use for developing, implementing, and evaluating their teaching methods. The underlying argument is that theme courses can support learning about writing, so long as theme selection and implementation work in purposeful support of the course’s learning about writing goals.

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