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 understanding and improving out-of-school time (OST) programs for children and youth. Our team's applied approach utilizes both quantitative and qualitative methods. From a theoretical standpoint we are interested in development in context and how the opportunities and supports in a young person’s social ecology shape their learning and development--with a particular focus on youth-adult partnerships.

Our research projects reflect two overlapping strands, defined by two broad research questions. First, What key features matter for developmentally rich settings? In this strand we study both general features and the specific feature of youth-adult partnerships in settings for adolescents. Second, How can we help staff be successful in effecting developmentally rich settings? We address this strand through studies of professional development and of citywide approaches to child and youth program opportunities and quality. Embedded in our applied research approach are themes of equity, motivation, and the changing digital landscape.

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.
  • A grounded exploration of faciltation in educational maker spaces.
  • Research and evaluation with Pittsburgh's Learn & Earn Summer Employment initiative.
  • A three-year evaluation of the Heinz Endoments youth organizing initiative in Pittsburgh.
  • Investigation into citywide approaches to youth development and learning such as the Digital Corps, in which adults with technology expertise deliver technology-based content in existing middle-school-age youth programs.

Previous projects include

  • A mixed methods investigation of adolescent motivation to attend urban, neighborhood-based youth programs
  • A qualitative study of program adult views of youth-adult partnership strategies; with a focus on how youth progress through programs
  • Quantiative investigations of a relatively large nested sample of youth programs: one about program quality and one about the impact of involving youth in decision-making

School Affiliations

Recent Grants

  • Evaluation of the Pittsburgh Youth Organizing for School Change Program, The Heinz Endowments, PI, 2014-17, $555,000.
  • Simple Interactions 2.0, The Grable Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, PI, 2015-2017, $280,000.
  • Evaluation of the 2015 Learn & Earn Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Initiative, Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, PI, 2015, $125,000.
  • Youth voice and leadership in the Pittsburgh Hive, The Sprout Fund, PI, 2013, $25,000.
  • The Digital Corps: Bringing in the community for digital learning in youth programs, Robert Bowne Foundation Edmund A. Stanley, Jr. Research Grant, PI, 2014, $25,000.
  • National Afterschool Matters Pittsburgh Youth Worker Practitioner Fellowship, United Way of Allegheny County, PI, 2013-2014, $25,500.
  • More

Recent Publications