Enrolments in STEM disciplines at universities are increasing globally, attributed to the greater life opportunities open to students as a result of a STEM education. But while institutional access to STEM programmes is widening, the retention and success of STEM undergraduate students remains a challenge. Pedagogies that support student success are well known; what we know less about is how university teachers acquire pedagogical competence. This is the focus of this critical review of the literature that offers a theorised critique of educational development in STEM contexts. We studied the research literature with a view to uncovering the principles that inform professional development in STEM disciplines and fields. The key finding of this critical review is how little focus there is on the STEM disciplines. The majority of studies reviewed did not address the key issue of what makes the STEM disciplines difficult to learn and challenging to teach.