Motivating students is probably one of the hardest things we do as teachers. Delivering content is meaningless without a student motivated to learn and apply it. During our workshops this is one of the most common topics that come up. While this is usually in the context of Mastery Learning the general advice I give us universally applicable to any instructional model.
While there are a lot of tips and tricks to motivating students, most of them come down to one simple philosophy: INCREASE STUDENT OWNERSHIP
SIMPLE BUT TRUE...
I know this seems overly simplified, but there is a fundamental truth that students care about what they perceive as having control and ownership over. If you are just trying to deliver instruction to a student, you have to convince them of why it's important. If they own the process of learning and engage in that process, their motivation to do well is inherent.
If you really think about it, much of the educational system that students reside in is just "provided" or "delivered" to them. They are passive participants and either go along with it or fight it hand and tooth. When we shift the conversation and let students take ownership of choices, pace, how they learn, and the way they show mastery, they become much more motivated to do well.
In my discussions with teachers, I've even had some say that students who never worked before, have started working harder than ever because they "weren't being 'told' to do it."
So the next time you have a student that seems unmotivated or disengaged from learning, think about how much of a stake, or ownership, they have in what they are doing. When you change that conversation and relationship between the student and their learning, motivation will always increase. More importantly student success and achievement will follow.