Melissa Burch

Associate Professor of Cognitive Development
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Contact Melissa

Mail Code CS
Melissa Burch
Adele Simmons Hall 135
413.559.5465

Melissa Burch, associate professor of cognitive development, received her B.A. in psychology from Franklin and Marshall College. She earned her Ph.D. in child development with a minor in interpersonal relationships from the University of Minnesota.

Melissa's research interests center on memory development, particularly memory for personal experiences. She has been exploring how parental verbal support may contribute to children's ability to recall the past.

In addition, she is interested in how emotion may affect reports of past experiences and how parents and children talk about these events.

She is currently examining autobiographical memory from a cross-cultural perspective to study how different socialization experiences may relate to the detail included in memory reports.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • In this course we will discuss the many types of memory we use daily, from remembering the name of a new friend, a favorite birthday party, or even how to ride a bike. We will explore the constructive nature of memories, some errors of memory, and how memory capabilities develop over the life course. Students will participate in demonstrations of various memory tasks and collect data to explore specific concepts. We will also discuss the neurological underpinnings of different memory systems. In addition to reading scholarly research and writing brief papers in response to the readings, students will be expected to integrate their acquired knowledge through a final paper on a memory-related topic in their own area of interest Keywords:Psychology, memory, brain and behavior, development

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  • he developmental significance of parent-child and peer relationships from infancy into childhood and adolescence. We will also discuss children's understanding of theory of mind, gender, emotions, and self. In particular, we will focus on age-related changes in these skills and how they impact social relationships. We will also consider cross-cultural differences in patterns of social behavior. Evaluation will be based on participations, a series of short papers, and a longer final project. Students will read research articles and be responsible for class discussions and presentations. KEYWORDS:Psychology, childhood, relationships

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  • Autobiographical memories for personal past experiences create our life stories. Our memories range from the mundane to the momentous. In this course we will explore psychological research to understand the functions and development of autobiographical memory. What are the basic cognitive processes that contribute to our ability to remember and report the past? How do we interpret past events to inform the development of our self-identity? How do social experiences contribute to the development of memory? We will also discuss how emotions at encoding and retrieval influence our recall of past experience as we make meaning of personal past experiences.Keywords:Psychology,memory narrative

  • The majority of adults are able to read fluently. However, when children learn to read, the process is dependent on a number of skills and requires a great deal of adult guidance. In this course we will discuss the cultural importance of literacy throughout childhood. We will focus on the development of the complex skill of reading, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and higher-order processes that contribute to decoding and text comprehension. Because instruction can play a determining factor in children's acquisition of literacy skills, we will study early reading materials and examine strategies that are employed in the classroom to facilitate the acquisition of these skills. In addition, we'll consider the importance of multicultural children's literature and explore aspects of critical literacy in the classroom. Evaluation will be based on class participation, a series of short papers, and a longer final project. Keywords: literacy, education, childhood studies, child development