Abstract tunnel like image

The future substance of STEM education

A virtual design workshop for faculty in STEM disciplines to collaboratively develop new programs and curriculum materials that go beyond core content knowledge to integrate mindsets and values.


The STEM Futures project was a collaboration between our team — primarily Punya Mishra and Ben Scragg — and Ariel Anbar and his team at ASU’s Center for Education Through Exploration (ETX Center). The goal of this project, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, was to advance innovative visions for STEM education that go beyond the acquisition of core content knowledge to integrate mindsets and values.

What we did

The heart of the project was a week-long virtual design-studio workshop experience for higher education faculty in STEM disciplines to collaboratively develop new programs and curriculum materials. We introduced the conceptual framework in a white paper that we shared prior to the design-studio workshop sessions and explored through a webinar series conducted prior to the workshop.


In the concept paper, Developing the future substance of STEM education (adapted from analysis conducted by and reported in Kereluik, Mishra, Fahnoe, Terry (2013)), we broadly organize our thinking about the future substance of STEM education through the integration of three broad categories of knowledge: foundational knowledge (core content knowledge of STEM disciplines); meta knowledge (skills, mindsets, and attitudes that address the process of working with foundational knowledge); and humanistic knowledge (human-centered values we bring to our knowledge and action). This framework is diagrammatically represented below.

Pre-workshop webinars

The design-studio workshop was preceded by four webinars; three explored the framework and the fourth prepared participants for the design sessions. It is important to note that although the first three webinars were each framed around one component of the framework, the discussion was usually integrative in nature—connecting across the domains for foundational, meta and humanistic knowledge.

Design-Studio Workshop

The workshop adopted a design-studio format, in which participant teams were tasked with creating future STEM program concepts, and then went through iterative rounds of work and feedback. Participants had a range of opportunities to see the work being done by other teams and to learn from them, as well as to provide feedback. There was also a strong emphasis on creating a sense of community and collegiality.



There were 105 individual participants, accepted from 179 applicants, formed into 25 teams. Most individuals applied as part of pre-formed teams, while others were placed on teams after their acceptance. Participants represented 53 different institutions from 29 U.S. states. They were 65% female, and 32% persons of color or otherwise underrepresented minority.

Workshop Outputs

The final products of the workshop [update this link with the new STEM Futures site] included a diverse and innovative set of curricular design products, including degree and certificate program proposals, descriptions, and learning outcomes; course syllabi and other course components; and plans for training and professional development programs. These efforts spanned traditional disciplines such as Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Engineering, and the Health Sciences, as well as more interdisciplinary STEM programs. These diverse teams designed their materials for a broad array of audiences including STEM majors and non-majors, first-year students, disciplinary majors in upper-level courses, college faculty, preservice teachers, student leaders, and college STEM-bound high school students.

Despite the range of content covered and audiences targeted by these different curricular designs, one thing stayed constant: the intentional, meaningful and contextually relevant integration of foundational, meta, and humanistic knowledge.


National Science Foundation

ASU’s Center for Education Through Exploration (ETX Center)

Carleton College’s Science Education Resource Center


April 2020 - March 2021

Related resources

Blog posts

Collaboration, imagination and designing the future substance of STEM: insights from a cross-institutional, virtual workshop convening

Learn about our team’s effort to lead a national workshop collaboration focused on the designing future undergraduate STEM education, and the lessons we learned along the way about collaborating remotely and at scale.