Undergraduate “writing methods” courses, or courses training secondary teachers how to teach writing, have increased 42% over the past decade within college English departments. Whether in response to increasing accreditation standards or a reaction against alarmist rhetoric about the poor training of today’s secondary English teachers, the writing methods course is often categorized as a potential antidote to a lack of writing teacher training.

Though much has been written on the its graduate counterpart, the composition practicum, no similar in-depth studies have been conducted exploring the content of the undergraduate writing methods course, the credentials of those teaching the course, and the types of activities used to train preservice teachers in writing instruction in preparation for the challenging conditions of today’s secondary schools. Using faculty responses from a statewide survey of all Ohio undergraduate writing methods course instructors, this essay offers a first look at how preservice writing teachers are typically prepared to teach writing within college English departments and what such training suggests for writing teacher education as a field.

Results suggest that though today’s undergraduate writing methods courses are taught by experienced rhetoric and composition faculty, who make a concerted effort to link composition theory with practical strategies for teaching writing, most instructors find that students continue to have trouble understanding the relationship between theory and practice, potentially preventing transfer of information to future teaching contexts. I suggest that this disconnect stems from two related challenges inherent in the design of the undergraduate writing methods course. One, the course often lacks opportunities for concept development. Two, underlying disciplinary tensions between theory and practice within the field of rhetoric and composition hinder conceptual development. Rather using the writing methods course as a vehicle to present a cohesive introduction to writing studies, I advocate using disciplinary tensions between rhetoric and composition, English education, and writing teacher education to open conversation spaces for preservice teachers and to build on existing course strengths.