Thomas Akiva

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Thomas Akiva

Thomas Akiva

University of Pittsburgh
5938 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: 412-648-7320


My research focuses on organized activities that youth attend during out-of-school time (OST) and what these voluntary environments can teach us about learning. I study this topic from a motivation perspective, investigating instructional practices, thought processes, decisions made during learning, and the developmental and educational consequences of participation. I also have interest and experience studying mindfulness among adults and youth in various learning settings.

I currently have projects in two areas:

  • Adolescent motivation to attend and engage in youth programs -- Given the multitude of ways high school students can spend their time, what factors contribute to their decisions to enroll in and regularly attend OST program activities? I am addressing this topic within an expectancy-value framework, focusing on intrinsic factors related to people (peers, staff) and content (activities, projects, cool materials in the program space).
  • Developmental effects of involving youth in authentic leadership roles in youth programs -- Through two projects I am investigating the practice of placing youth in leadership roles within youth programs. One is a youth leadership program in which older youth mentor younger youth. The second is a project to examine the effects of participation as a summer camp CIT (counselor-in-training).

School Affiliations

Recent Grants

  • Evaluation of the Pittsburgh Youth Organizing for School Change Program

    2014 - 2017
  • Youth voice and leadership in the Pittsburgh Hive

    Jan 1, 2013 - Jan 1, 2014
  • Planning for an evaluation of the Pittsburgh Youth Organizing Program

  • The Digital Corps: Bringing in the community for digital learning in youth programs

  • National Afterschool Matters Pittsburgh Youth Worker Practitioner Fellowship

    2013 - 2014
  • Really Simple Improvement (RSI): A process for increasing staff-youth developmental interactions in out-of-school time

    2013 - 2014
  • More

Recent Publications

  • Akiva, T., Cortina, K. S., Eccles, J. S., & Smith, C. (2013). Youth belonging and cognitive engagement in organized activities: A large-scale field study. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34, 208-218.
  • Smith, C., Akiva, T., Sugar, S. A., Lo, Y. J., Frank, K. A., Devaney, T., Cortina, K., & Peck, S. P. (2012). Continuous quality improvement in afterschool settings: Impact findings from the Youth Program Quality Intervention study. Washington, DC: The Forum for Youth Investment.
  • Benn, R., Akiva, T., Arel, S., & Roeser, R. W. (2012). Mindfulness training effects for parents and educators of children with special needs. Developmental Psychology, 48, 1476-1487.
  • Smith, C. Peck, S. C., Denault, A., Blazevski, J., & Akiva, T. (2010). Quality at the point of service: Profiles of practice in after-school settings. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 358-369.
  • Smith, C., & Akiva, T. (2008). Quality accountability: Improving fidelity of broad developmentally focused interventions. In H. Yoshikawa & B. Shinn (Eds.), Toward positive youth development: Transforming schools and community programs. (pp. 192-212). New York: Oxford University Press.