Professional Biography

Dr. Waff, a literacy educator, specializes in working closely with secondary and community college teachers in all subject areas to establish professional learning communities and habits of reflective practice, leading to innovations in curriculum and instruction that increase students’ access to higher levels of literacy learning. Through curriculum and professional development initiatives, she facilitates positive change in school cultures, transforming schools into communities of learners, creating teaching and learning opportunities to empower administrators, teachers, and students to realize school reform goals.

Prior to joining the Penn faculty, Dr. Waff spent three years as a senior program associate at WestEd in Oakland, California. While there, she engaged teachers in specifically designed collaborative-learning experiences from which they gained the knowledge and instructional strategies they needed to support the literacy development of their diverse students. She has facilitated national Leadership Institutes in Reading Apprenticeships, mid-year conferences, regional professional development workshops, and webinars reaching hundreds of educators worldwide.

Dr. Waff has extensive experience as a high school teacher, district and building administrator, K-12 teaching and learning coordinator, and teacher researcher. For over two decades, she has worked with teacher research communities as a convener and facilitator for the National Writing Project, the BreadLoaf Teacher Network, and Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity. She serves on the board of the Practitioner Initiated Inquiry Series for Teachers College Press and served as chair of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Secondary Section Steering Committee from 2006-2008.

Research Interests and Current Projects


Ed.D. (Reading, Writing, & Literacy) University of Pennsylvania , 2007.

M.S. (Educational Administration) Saint Joseph’s University, 2001.

M.Ed. (Special Education) Antioch University, 1980.

B.A. (English Literature) University of Pennsylvania, 1976.

Areas of Expertise

Literacy and learning
Practitioner inquiry
Professional development
Urban school reform

Selected Publications

Waff, D. : An insider voice: leading as a teacher. Inquiry as Stance: Practitioner Research in the Next Generation. M. Cochran-Smith and S. L. Lytle (eds.). New York: Teachers College Press, 2009.

Lytle, S., Portnoy, P., Waff, D., & Buckley, M.: Teacher research in urban Philadelphia: Twenty years working within, against, and beyond the system. Educational Action Research 17(1): 23 - 42, 2009.

Waff, D.: What teacher inquiry means in practice. The Council Chronicle. NCTE, 18(2): 32-34, November 2008.

Chilla, N., Cole, H., & Waff, D.: Leadership for literacy: Teachers raising expectations and opportunities English Journal 96(5): 12-14, 2007.

Alvermann, D., Hinchman, K., Moore, D., Phelps, S., & Waff, D.: Reconceptualizing the Literacies in Adolescents’ Lives (2nd edition). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 2006.

Livesay, M., Moore, C., Stankay, R., Waters, M., Waff, D., & Gentile, C.: Collaborative learning communities: Building leadership in a high school English department. English Journal 95(2): 16-18, 2005.

Waff, D., & Connell, P.: Trenton Central High School SSR: A case study. English Journal 93(5): 13-15, 2004.

Gold, E., Rhodes, A., Brown, S., Lytle, S., & Waff, D.: Clients, Consumers, or Collaborators? Parents and Their Roles in School Reform During Children Achieving, 1995-2000. N/A. Philadelphia: Consortium for Policy Research in Education, 2001.

Alvermann, D., Hinchman, K., Moore, D., Phelps, S., & Waff, D.: Reconceptualizing the Literacies in Adolescents’ Lives. N/A. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998.