What engages you in your field of study? What prompted you to be passionate about it? As you consider all the factors that brought you to where you are today, you’ll probably recall a particular individual (or several individuals) who lit the spark that fueled your passion.

Therefore, it stands to reason: If you’d like students to be passionate about your class, you’ll see them do so if you demonstrate the passion that drives you to research, study, and explore your field.

That’s the perspective of Kayla Orlinsky, student at Irvine Valley College and a runner-up in Cengage Learning’s “Instructor for a Day” video contest. In her video below, she says that being passionate is the most important thing an instructor can do to engage his or her students.  When you show students how you connect with the material you’re presenting, and what you find interesting and exciting about it, then students’ desire to connect with that material will more naturally follow suit.

When considering additional ways to engage students, she also notes that field trips, guest speakers, and demonstration of real-world applications can go a long way towards engaging students in class material. Furthermore, Kayla states that students want to know about careers in your field. If they know how people in the field put your course concepts to use, then they get a better picture of its relevance and applications. (They may even decide to pursue the field themselves!)

Kayla notes a few things that instructors have played in her own ability to get engaged in college. Their guidance, their ability to challenge her to grow as a student and math major, and their willingness to extend opportunities to do and present research have all encouraged her to explore a variety of topics and fields and have inspired her to appreciate the subjects and learn about them

Though instructors play a large role in students’ level of engagement, Kayla of course also realizes that students themselves must do their part to be and remain engaged. Her tip for fellow students: make the effort to connect with your instructors. If students make that connection, and endeavor to see what engages instructors, then students will, in turn, get engaged and inspired… and may find themselves better able to connect with the material.

What’s your passion? What fuels your ability to be passionate about what you do? And what are your suggestions regarding how to engage students? Share and discuss below!