Summary Directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into somatic counterparts is a valuable tool for studying disease. However, examination of developmental mechanisms in hPSCs remains challenging given complex multi-factorial actions at different stages. Here, we used TALEN and CRISPR/Cas-mediated gene editing and hPSC-directed differentiation for a systematic analysis of the roles of eight pancreatic transcription factors (PDX1, RFX6, PTF1A, GLIS3, MNX1, NGN3, HES1, and ARX). Our analysis not only verified conserved gene requirements between mice and humans but also revealed a number of previously unsuspected developmental mechanisms with implications for type 2 diabetes. These include a role of RFX6 in regulating the number of pancreatic progenitors, a haploinsufficient requirement for PDX1 in pancreatic β cell differentiation, and a potentially divergent role of NGN3 in humans and mice. Our findings support use of systematic genome editing in hPSCs as a strategy for understanding mechanisms underlying congenital disorders.