Professional Biography

Dr. Dan Wagner is a Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy, Director of the International Literacy Institute (ILI; co-founded by UNESCO and the University of Pennsylvania), Founding Director of the federally-funded National Center on Adult Literacy (NCAL),and Director of Penn GSE’s International Educational Development Program (IEDP). Dr. Wagner received his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Michigan, was a two-year postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Fellow at the International Institute of Education Planning in Paris, a Visiting Professor at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Paris. He completed his undergraduate degree in Engineering at Cornell University and later served in the Peace Corps in Morocco.

Dr. Wagner has extensive experience in national and international educational issues, and has been an international development advisor to UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, USAID, DFID, and others. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Anthropological Association (AAA), and the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Dr. Wagner has also served as Chair of the Brookings Global Research Task Force on Learning. He was the recipient of the 2014 UNESCO Confucius International Literacy Prize. In 2017, he was appointed Special Advisor on Literacy to the UNESCO Director-General.


Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Wagner writes extensively on the above issues, and has more than 170 professional publications. Additionally, he has written or edited 25 books.


Ph.D. (Developmental Psychology) University of Michigan, 1976

M.A. (Experimental Psychology) University of Michigan, 1971

B.S. (Operations Research Engineering) Cornell University, 1968


Areas of Expertise

International education and development
Literacy, learning, and cognition in children, youth, and adults
Language acquisition and multi-lingualism
Educational technologies
Educational psychology

Selected Publications

Wagner, D. A., Wolf, S., Boruch, R. F. (Eds.). (2018) Learning at the bottom of the pyramid: Science, measurement, and policy in low-income countries. Paris, France: UNESCO-IIEP.

Wagner, D. A. (Ed.). (2018). Learning as development: Rethinking international education in a changing world. New York, NY: Routledge.

Wagner, D. A. (Ed.). (2015). Learning and education in developing countries: Research and policy for the post-2015 UN development goals. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wagner, D. A. (2015). Des évaluations simples, rapides et abordables: Améliorer lapprentissage dans les pays en développement. Paris, France: UNESCO-IIEP.

Wagner, D. A., & Castillo, N. M. (2014). Learning at the bottom of the pyramid: Constraints, comparability and policy in developing countries. Prospects, (44), 627–638.

Wagner, D. A. (2014). Mobiles for reading: A landscape research review. Washington, DC: USAID. 

Wagner, D. A. (2011). What happened to literacy? Historical and conceptual perspectives on literacy in UNESCO. International Journal of Educational Development, 31, 319–323.

Wagner, D. A. (2011). Smaller, quicker, cheaper: Improving learning assessments in developing countries. International Institute for Educational Planning. Paris: UNESCO.

Wagner, D. A. (2010). Quality of education, comparability, and assessment choice in developing countries. COMPARE: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 40(6), 741–760.

Wagner, D. A. (2008). Global perspectives on the science of literacy and education. In M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of cross-cultural developmental science. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.

Wagner, D. A., & Sweet, R. (Eds.). (2006). ICT and learning: Supporting out-of-school youth and adults. Paris, France: OECD/NCAL.

Wagner, D. A., & Kozma, R. (2005). New technologies for literacy and adult education: A global perspective. Paris, France: UNESCO. [English, French and Arabic].

Wagner, D. A. (Ed.). (2005). Monitoring and evaluation of ICT in education projects: A handbook for developing countries. Washington, D.C.: World Bank/InfoDev.

Wagner, D. A., Venezky, R. L., & Street, B. V. (Eds.). (1999). Literacy: An international handbook. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.