Thomas Akiva
Faculty - EdD Coordinator

My research focuses on understanding and improving out-of-school learning (OSL) program experiences for children and youth. My team investigates child and youth program processes at multiple levels, with studies about program practices, staff professional development, and cross-program networks. This research is designed to uncover practical findings to support adults who work with youth in program settings. Our team uses motivation theory and tends to focus on youth-adult relationships, innovation, and equity. This research takes place in three strands:

  1. Understanding youth programs and their features
  2. Professional development for youth workers
  3. Building equitable systems for cross-setting learning

You can read about our research on p. 8 of the Fall 2015 School of Education newsletter.

Active projects include:

  • Ongoing examination of the Simple Interactions professional development approach in youth programs, libraries, and museums.
  • A collaborative study to understand regional (urban vs suburban/rural) out-of-school learning with the Remake Learning Network
  • Research and evaluation with Pittsburgh's Learn & Earn Summer Employment initiative.
  • A multi-year evaluation of youth organizing in Pittsburgh

School Affiliations

Recent Grants

Remake making: Understanding adoption and adaptation of facilitated making in libraries, National Science Foundation: Advancing Informal STEM Learning, PI, 2017-2019, $299,495.
Modeling the Creative Learning ecosystem in Pittsburgh, The Heinz Endowments, PI, 2019, $49,500.
Out-of-School Learning in Urban and Disrupted Suburban Areas, The Grable Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, PI, 2017-2018, $35,000 ($17,500 Grable, $17,500 Heinz Endowments).
Evaluation of the Pittsburgh Youth Organizing for School Change Program, The Heinz Endowments, PI, 2014-2017, $555,000.
Simple Interactions 2.0, The Grable Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, PI, 2015-2017, $280,000.
Evaluation of the 2016 Learn & Earn Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Initiative, Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, PI, 2016, $69,500.

Recent Publications

Akiva, T., *Carey, R. L., Cross, A. B., Delale-O'Connor, L., & Brown, M. R. (2017). Reasons youth engage in activism programs: Social justice or sanctuary? Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 53, 20-30.
Wilson, C., Akiva, T., Sibthorp, J., & Browne, L. (2019). Fostering distinct and transferable learning via summer camp. Children and Youth Services Review, 98, 269-277.
Akiva, T., & Delale-O'Connor, L. (2018, Apr). Social justice and sanctuary: Youth activism programs as settings for development and learning. PittEd School of Education Magazine. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh School of Education.
Thomas Akiva


University of Pittsburgh
5938 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260