Tom Akiva Releases New Book on Out-of-School Learning Ecosystems

Faculty and Research

An adult working with youth in an after-school setting

There is an old saying that "it takes a village to raise a child."

Tom Akiva feels the same way about education. 

He believes teachers shouldn’t be solely responsible for the education and development of young people. It takes all the adults in their lives.

They are the proverbial village.

Tom Akiva photo"To really solve our problems in education, we have to think beyond school buildings," says Akiva, an associate professor and director of the Doctor of Education (EdD) program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. 

Adults working in the allied youth fields can have a significant impact on children’s lives. These include adults in after-school clubs, art and music programs, libraries, museums, and summer camps.

Akiva and Kimberly H. Robinson of the Forum for Youth Development explore these themes in their new book It Takes an Ecosystem: Understanding the People, Places, and Possibilities of Learning and Development Across Settings (Information Age Publishing, 2022).

Published as part of the Current Issues in Out-of-School Time series, the book examines how in-school and out-of-school learning systems can be improved to better support young people's learning and development.

"We take ecosystem thinking, which borrows from biology, and apply it to youth development," says Akiva. "If you think about a natural ecosystem and all the different parts working together, we apply this to young people and their learning and development across all the different settings they spend time in—schools, youth groups, church, families, etc."

The book has 16 chapters. Additional contributors from Pitt Education include PhD student DaVonna Graham; post-doctoral researcher Fatima Brunson and past post-doctoral researcher Rodereck Carey; PhD alumnae Sharon Colvin, Marijke Hecht, Annie White, and Dana Winters; and faculty members Lori Delale-O’Connor, Esohe Osai, and Valerie Kinloch, professor and Renée and Richard Goldman Dean.

The events of 2020 also heavily influenced the book's focus.

Tom Akiva book cover"We wrote this book during the COVID-19 pandemic and almost every chapter mentions the huge disruption that caused and how the disruption opens up possibilities for the future," says Akiva. "We also have a chapter that directly connects to the Black Lives Matter moment, which asks what it would mean to seriously take up the call for Black lives to really matter in educational ecosystems and across the allied youth fields."

Akiva hopes that policy makers and adults working with youth will use the book to bring about positive changes in their environments.

Says Akivia: “The book asks the question: How do we think more holistically and look at learning as lifewide and lifelong rather than putting all of our resources into our schools and then getting mad at schools when they can’t solve every problem on their own?”

The answer is clear.

It takes a village of educators.

Learn More

The book is available for purchase here.

The Doctor of Education (EdD) program is accepting applications and offers a concentration in Out-of-School Learning.