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

  • 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

  • Technology and media are increasingly present in the lives of children. Advances in computers, the internet, smartphones, and social media have greatly impacted how and when we access information as well as the nature of our interactions with others. These advances can lead to both potential benefits and concerns. Some topics that we will explore are general patterns of media use in development, the effects of media on children's early learning experiences, research on the effects of TV shows on prosocial and antisocial behavior, use of social media and well-being, and more. We will consider theories of development, review the research literature examining the impact of media, and also examine how schools and families incorporate media into children's daily lives. Students will present in class, write a series of short papers, and develop a longer review or research paper on a related topic of their own interest. Keywords: child development, psychology

  • 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 the functions of autobiographical memory as well as its development. 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. Key words: psychology, memory, narrative

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