Contributing Faculty: Out-of-School Learning

by Pitt School of Education

Tom Akiva

Tom Akiva, Ph.D., focuses his research on understanding and improving out-of-school learning (OSL) program experiences for children and youth, investigating 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

Akiva's 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


Kevin Crowley

Kevin Crowley, Ph.D., is a professor of Learning Sciences and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh, where he also directs the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE) and is a Senior Scientists at the Learning Research and Development Center. Crowley works in partnership with museums, community organizations, and other informal educators to develop innovative learning environments. Crowley’s group conducts learning sciences research in informal settings and develops new theories of how people learn about science, technology, engineering, and art.

For the most up-to-date info on Crowley's work, visit the UPCLOSE web site:


Lori Delale-O'Connor

Lori Delale-O'Connor, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of Research and Development at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Urban Education and a Research Assistant Professor of Education. Her teaching, research, and policy interests focus on urban education, sociology of education, positive child and youth development, and parent education.

Dr. Delale-O'Connor received a Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University where she was also a certificate fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Education Sciences--a pre-doctoral training program funded by the Institute of Education Sciences. Dr. Delale-O'Connor's work has received support from the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). She was recently the co-PI for an IES funded feasibility study examining the information provided for parents and students to make schooling choices. Dr. Delale-O'Connor also holds an M.Ed. in secondary education from Boston College where she was a Donovan Urban Scholar and taught secondary social studies in the Boston Public Schools.

Prior to joining the School of Education, Dr. Delale-O'Connor was a research scientist at Child Trends, a non-profit research center focused on improving the well-being of children across the lifespan. There she designed and conducted evaluations of programs serving children and youth.


Mary Margaret Kerr

A graduate of Duke University and American University, Mary Margaret Kerr is Professor and former Chair of Administrative and Policy Studies, Professor of Psychology in Education, and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. Also licensed as a superintendent, Kerr has worked in urban school districts throughout her academic career. In the Department of Psychiatry, Kerr initially directed school-based research and training programs. Taking a public service leave from the University, Dr. Kerr served Pittsburgh City Schools as Director of Pupil Services. In 1995, Kerr was appointed by the federal court in California to serve as Consent Decree Administrator for the Chanda Smith special education case in LAUSD, where she worked for nearly a decade to reform all special education services for over 82,000 students. Returning to the University, Kerr directed training services for the University’s youth suicide and violence prevention center, STAR-Center, which provides crisis response services, training, and policy consultation to school districts and agencies across Pennsylvania.

Kerr’s research team studies the experiences of children who visit and correspond with the Flight 93 (9/11) National Memorial, the Pentagon Memorial, and other such painful heritage sites. Her second area of research explores the emotional lives of teachers and students in K-12 schools. With C. Michael Nelson, she authored Strategies for Addressing Behavioral Problems in the Classroom, now in its 6th edition. In 2009, she authored School Crisis Prevention and Intervention.

Kerr is the recipient of the Jean Winsand Distinguished Woman in Education Award, the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, the Provost's ACIE Award for Innovation in Education, and the Department of Psychiatry Teaching Award.