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.
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 across societies and 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. Evaluation will be based on class participation, a series of short papers, and a longer final project.
How does culture influence child development? How do the values, norms, and expectations of a group shape socialization processes? What is the child's role in contributing to social interactions and how might this vary across cultural and social settings? In this course we will move beyond examining group differences to discussing the implications of cultural practices and values for understanding development. We will explore psychological and anthropological literature to consider different perspectives and methodologies to examine how sociocultural context shapes behaviors and development. We will also consider how views of childhood vary across cultures and are reflected in social interactions and cultural routines and systems. Students will be responsible for facilitating discussions, presenting articles, writing short response papers, and completing an integrative final paper on a topic of their choice. Prerequisite: A previous course in psychology or childhood studies.
In this course we will discuss the processes by which children come to acquire, recall, and use knowledge. This course will focus on development from infancy to middle childhood. By reading primary literature, we will examine the emergence and refinement of children's ability to form concepts, recall the past, and extend knowledge to new situations. We will consider methodological challenges and approaches to studying children's abilities, including naturalistic observations, and controlled laboratory studies. We will review literature on findings and theories of development in each area and discuss how changes in children's representational abilities contribute to these abilities. Students will make class presentations based on research articles, write short papers in response to class topics, and develop a research proposal on a topic of interest discussed in the course.
Children's homes and school environments are both valuable contexts to support children's literacy development, and they are most effective when they work together. In this class, we will be partnering with a local school district in their work developing home-school alignment to promote reading skills. Our readings will be drawn from the psychological literature to explore psychological foundations of literacy and family practices around book reading and narrative. We will also explore curricular approaches that cultivate children's skills and engagement with books. We will consult with a school district to support their mission to increase students' reading ability through home-school alignment and examine numerous contexts for learning from living rooms, classrooms, to parks and libraries. As part of the course, we will regularly visit the school to coordinate our efforts. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.
Social relationships and social understanding are important parts of our lives from infancy onward. In this course we will explore the 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 difference in patterns of social behavior. Evaluation will be based on participation, a series of short papers, and a longer final project. Students will read research articles and be responsible for class presentations.
In this course students will gain first-hand experience in the process of conducting research in autobiographical memory. Students will be exposed to some of the main issues in autobiographical memory for personal past events throughout the childhood years and into adulthood. We will consider the potential roles of social interaction, self, culture, and emotionality of events as well as developmental changes in autobiographical memory reports. Course requirements will include reading primary research articles, and designing and executing an original research project. This is an intensive course comprising instruction in all areas of the research process, including collecting, coding, and analysis of data. Prerequisite: Previous coursework in psychology.
Associate Professor of Cognitive Development
Mail Code CS
Adele Simmons Hall 135
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002