Abstract Currently, the need to learn parallel applications topics in students has become an important issue due to the rapid growth in the parallel computing field. In fact, this topic has been included in Computer Science curriculum, but students present difficulties to design MPI parallel applications efficiently. We present a novel methodology for teaching parallel programming centered on improving parallel applications written by students through their experiences obtained during classes. The methodology integrates theoretical and practical sections which are focused on teaching two parallel paradigms, master/Worker and SPMD. These paradigms were selected due to their different communication and computation behaviors, which generate challenges for students when they wish to improve performance application metrics. Our methodology allows students to discover their own errors and how to correct them. In addition, students analyze the issues and advantages in the application designed in order to enhance the performance metrics. Applying this methodology gave us a significant progress in parallel applications designed by students, where we have observed an improvement of around 47% in the students’ skill about parallel programming when they design parallel applications.