My teaching philosophy can be summarized in 3 concepts: Passion, Science, and Inclusion.
The single best way to teach someone is to inspire them. I love economics because it helps us answer many of the most important questions one could ask. Why are some countries rich while others are poor? Why is it safe in some places and incredibly dangerous in others? Why do people live long lives in some places but much shorter in others? Economics can help us better answer these questions, as well as many others.
Everything I teach surrounds these questions. I try to always start with "why". For example: we want to understand why some nations are wealthy. Thus we need to be able to measure how wealthy a nation is. That's why we study GDP. Before going into details, I will always to my best to first inspire my students.
Selected Quotes From Students (Passion):
"He was one of the best instructors I've ever had. He genuinely cares about his students and listens to the feedback that we give him."
"He is a great teacher who made me feel seen as a student. His love of the material was very obvious through his teaching and he explained all of the concepts very well and in depth. "
"He is extremely passionate about his students and wants them to learn the material. He used a lot of hands on learning and tried not to just read off of lecture slides."
"Professor Melo is very understanding. He is really nice and I can tell that he genuinely wants his students to learn. He cares a lot about his students and gives us many opportunities to increase our grade by learning more information."
"Professor Melo is one of my favorite teachers I have ever had of all time if not my favorite. He is so kind and not only just a teacher to his students but friends with them as well. It is pretty evident to me that students feel more comfortable with him in the classroom and that kids go to class because they want to and not because they feel like they have to. I have really really enjoyed this course and all of his teaching objectives are great. In the beginning of the year, he made sure to drill it into our heads that we do the work that we do because he truly wants us to learn this information because we want to get really into the material instead of just trying to just catch a deadline. Such a great teacher with a positive mindset as well as class vibe!"
"I really liked Mr. Melo because it actually seems like he cares about all of his students and wants us to all do well in the classroom, unlike some other teachers I have had for economics. He understands that macroeconomics is challenging and spends time teaching it until he is sure that a lot of us can make sense of the material."
There is a lot of research on the best ways to teach. I invested a lot of time studying this research before teaching my first class. I then carefully designed my classes to incorporate practices scientifically shown to be effective. The primary approaches I incorporate in my teaching are active learning and spaced repetition.
Passive learning is instructor-centered. This means the student would attend a professor’s lecture and then internalize the material through re-reading notes or highlighting large chunks of information when reviewing. However, this often leads to a surface-level understanding of key concepts, creating an illusion of knowledge. Active learning is student-centered. Students internalize the material through hands-on and interactive engagement such as teaching the material to someone or using the Anki (flashcard) method.
Here are a few ways that I incorporate evidence-based methods into my teaching:
My classes are "half-flipped" meaning that I lecture half of the time and work with students on group work the other half. Students are first exposed to the material via readings and videos at home. I then lecture on that week's material in class. The following class, students are divided into groups of about 5 students. We then go over a set of practice questions together. That way, students get to practice the material in class with me.
I created a weekly assignment called "peer-to-peer teaching" where students get the opportunity to teach that week's material to each other. Please watch an example of this assignment HERE. Students are paired up and meet on zoom for about 20-30min and teach that chapter to one another. Research has shown that teaching is one of the most effective ways of leaning. Students should be encouraged to teach. In my classes, they do so on a regular basis.
Midterms encourage “cramming”. This is exactly the opposite of what you should do if you wish to retain what you learn. Research shows that spaced repetition, which is when you recall the material many times throughout the semester in spaced intervals, is a much more effective way to learn. Therefore, there are no midterms in my class. I instead have shorter weekly quizzes. All quizzes have a cumulative part which encourages students to review previous chapters on a regular basis.
Selected Quotes From Students (Evidence-Based Teaching):
"Last semester I struggled so much with microeconomics, I just figured that macroeconomics would be the same. However Professor Melo made me actually understand and enjoy learning about macroeconomics. Any student would be so lucky to have him as a teacher because he uses techniques to make sure that the student remember the information and concepts for future use. He is also really understanding and helpful."
"I liked the peer-review and quiz corrections. The way he structured the class was built for us to have the material in long-term memory, which I thought was so helpful since some college courses rush through material, so you forget most of what you learned by the next semester. He also had us do case studies of countries so we were able to develop understanding of the economic concepts by looking at real world examples."
"I feel the peer to peer teaching was helpful. It made me have to go back through the materiel and understand it enough to be able to explain it to someone else. I also feel the day we would work on practice problems in groups was the most beneficial for me in learning the material."
"Vitor Melo's strengths include being very knowledgeable about the economic topics to be learned in the course. His course is VERY well organized and sticks to the syllabus well. Knowing what we are going to do each day in class every week makes the class so much less stressful and gives me more opportunity to learn. The schedule is very helpful in learning the material and keeping on pace for the course. The idea to have the peer to peer learning assignments is a great policy. It gives us no excuse to not study and go over the material at the end of the week. Vitor is a great professor of economics and gives us so many opportunities to learn. "
"I would say that the peer to peer teaching assignment assigned each week was most helpful because it forced us to learn the material and know how to explain it to others."
"I really liked that we had packets every week with practice problems. It was nice to work on the packets as a group so I could meet people in the class and wecould work together to help understand the concepts. The weekly quizzes were often based on the packets, so it was like having a study guide."
"Even though the peer-to-peer teaching was time consuming and not necessarily what I wanted to do I understand now just how important it was to understanding the material. It required me to understand the information more in depth than I would have without it."
"I really enjoyed his class layout in which we read outside of class, lectured on Mondays, and worked through interactive practice questions on Wednesdays, and quizzes on Fridays. I think that layout worked perfectly for the class and allowed for thoughtful interaction for all types of learners."
"I found the peer to peer teachings helpful. Although sometimes I did not feel like having to do them, they force you to pay more attention during class, and while doing the reading/ watching the videos. On the weeks that I knew I had to teach my partner I feel like I did a lot better with understanding the material just because it was an indirect way of having to study."
Being Latino and a first generation student, my academic career had many roadblocks that others didn't face. For example:
I still remember my first day of college when I received my first syllabus. I didn't know how important it was so I tossed it in the trash soon after class.
I was confronted by my first college professor for not responding to emails. I didn't know I needed to check that.
My family often told me that getting Cs was fine since it was a passing grade. I had no idea that only As were considered good grades by others.
It took me a while to learn things that others leaned from their families long before coming to college. I grew up in a different culture and there is nothing wrong with that. Many students today are in similar situations. They may be from a difference races, ethnicities, cultures, genders, and family backgrounds. Not all students are the same. I know I wasn't. So I do my best to create an inclusive environment in my classes where all are welcomed and respected. An environment where students are not judged but are instead met with empathy and understanding.
Selected Quotes From Students (Inclusion):
"Mr. Melo does an amazing job at connecting with the students. He make the learning space a happy and safe one. He makes the expectations of the class very clear from the start, he wants his students to learn and succeed. One of the best teachers I have had at Clemson, if I had to take another class with him I would be happy."
"Professor Melo was extremely helpful and personable, and I really liked how he was able to relate and help us, giving practice questions that explained the topics well and allowed us to almost learn it ourselves with assistance."
"Vitor Melo is a very good teacher. He always is prepared for class and is able to teach the material at an expert level. Any question asked in class is always answered. Vitor Melo cares a great deal for every student. He is very open and easy to approach. Many of my classmates including myself would often talk with Vito after class about grades, or deadlines. Vitor is very understanding of his students and helps make the class more accessible for each student while maintaining fair grading and standards. The best professor I have had at Clemson."
"I feel that Mr. Melo was a very good instructor for this course. He was very easily approachable when you were struggling with a topic and made himself more than available for help / office hours. Both times when I was having trouble withe a specific unit, Mr. Melo responded to my email within the same hour, and let me know his availability. Being that I am able to learn better in person, and Mr. Melo's office hours were online, he made accommodations for me to come meet in person and I am so thankful that he did that because not all professors do."
"His strengths were communicating information very well, and listening to the classes needs and wants. He always was welcoming to questions and would let the class give feedback on different teaching styles."
"I would definitely recommend this instructor to a friend. Vitor Melo is a great professor who prioritizes learning and understanding the content in place of remembering the facts just to pass an exam. He makes the learning personal and teaches the content in context of what is actually happening in the world. He prioritizes learning the content for real which is rare in entry level class professors these days. Great guy."