Background Primary teachers' pedagogical practices (TPP) are strongly focused on supporting pupils' psychological needs, creating a safe learning climate, and encouraging pupils' developmental and learning processes. As a core motivation for teachers is the desire to interact constructively with children, pedagogical practices can be understood as central to teachers' work. A familiar problem in many international contexts is that TPP can come under pressure, typically as the result of interplay between personal and contextual factors. However, which contextual factors influence TPP, and how they do so, remains unclear. Purpose In this study, we aimed to better understand how context influences primary school teachers' pedagogical practices, within the setting of primary education in the Netherlands. We were particularly interested in which contextual factors were perceived as important and how they influenced TPP. Methods Data were collected through open questions in a survey among 215 primary school teachers in the northern part of the Netherlands. Focus group interviews were then held with 11 of the survey participants. The data were analysed qualitatively, using a framework approach with five stages of familiarisation: identifying themes, indexing, charting, and mapping and interpretation. Findings The analysis identified nine contextual factors that, according to participants, both positively and negatively affected TPP. The most frequently mentioned threats to TPP were educational accountability and standards, and organisation of work in the classroom, whilst school improvement and pupils' educational needs were regarded as the most important stimulating factors. We clustered the factors into four patterns which reflected the way that teachers appraised them: organisation of daily classroom practices, school culture, educational improvement, and contribution to pupils' development. Conclusions According to the teachers, the interplay between TPP and the context can cause pressure, frustration, and feelings of incompetence because there is insufficient time for achieving pedagogical goals. Our study draws attention to the complex challenges that teachers face in terms of balancing pedagogical practices and other educational tasks, and draws out implications for policy and practice.
- Teachers' pedagogical practices (TPP)
- primary education
- contextual factors
- educational improvement