Stem Cells Across The Curriculum

Pedagogies & Philosophies


If we take seriously the notion that science is a liberal art, we should explore opportunities to connect scientific thinking with other areas within the liberal arts curriculum. The topic of stem cells provides an engaging framework for integrating biological concepts and principles with a diverse range of perspectives spanning social justice, religious studies, gender studies, disability studies, and economics.

As a recipient of NYSTEM funding to develop curriculum aimed at producing an informed citizenry and responsible scientists, we assembled an interdisciplinary team to create a set of educational modules entitled Stem Cells Across the Curriculum (SCAC). We also created semester-length courses that serve as Model Courses for Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER), which are available on the Adopters & Institutions page. Our approach ensures a balanced, yet rigorous, view on life science research and its relationship with society by asking students to imagine how research and policy can promote scientific innovation and social equity.

Using student-centered pedagogies including case based teaching and learning, critical pedagogy, and infographic thinking, SCAC incorporates a range of media to support student engagement with this rapidly evolving field, and to ensure that the biotechnological methods and applications are tangible and accessible. Our real-world cases studies are used as capstone activities by a number of institutions because they provide opportunities for students to apply what they are learning, to develop ethical reasoning, and to construct evidence-based arguments that address the risks, benefits, and trade-offs for specific stem cell research policies.

Our approach offers flexibility such that instructors can meet students where they are. Each module contains teaching notes, suggestions for alternative implementation, rubrics, assignments, essential resource lists, guiding questions, infographics, timelines, video guides, and slide sets. To access conference and workshop presentations explaining the curriculum, its implementation, and assessment, please visit Presentations. We welcome educators to use SCAC and adapt these resources for their unique learning environments, and welcome users to share their syllabi, adaptations, and experiences with us, please contact Katayoun Chamany at


Because the development of curricular content should be paired with the development of assessment instruments, our formative and summative assessment instruments were developed using a Backwards Design approach and are included in the teaching notes for each learning activity. After outlining the learning outcomes, we developed the necessary educational components to meet those learning outcomes (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

  1. Differentiate the various methods of developing stem cell lines and the implications for research, ethics, and therapy.
  2. Critically analyze evidence-based arguments for and against the liberalization of SCR and the ways in which policy has been shaped by these competing positions.
  3. Recognize the dominant narrative in which scientific research is positioned as progress and question the benefits and dangers associated with SCR as compared to other approaches used to promote social good.
  4. Trace the history of: cell research; human subjects research; forms of compensation to balance the risks and benefits of research participation; and the formation of new regulatory structures designed to oversee emerging practices.
  5. Identify the scientific method, the social justice principles, and any misrepresentations that relate to a particular SCR method in artwork, advertisements, film, news, scientific papers.

To assess student learning of biological concepts we draw on existing methodologies and approaches generated by SENCER, The National Institute for Science Education/ Field-Tested Learning Assessment Guide (NISE), and portions of The Bioliteracy Project (Klymkowsky & Garvin-Doxas, 2008). Because SCAC seeks to address visual literacy and the scientific method, in-class exercises required drawing or visual narration of experimental techniques that are associated with stem cell research. To assess students’ abilities to employ evidence-based reasoning and values in decision-making, grading rubrics for performative experiences such as role-play and written communications such as policy proposals accompany the Case Studies. Traditional exams include questions that require students to integrate ethical and social dimensions of SCR were employed but are not accessible on the website (Wilson & Sloane, 2000; Labov & Huddelston, 2008). Answer keys for restricted response answers to these exam questions, and a range of correct possible answers for free response questions or performative assessments are available by email (