Although effective teaching behaviour is central for pupil outcomes, the extent to which pre-service teachers behave effectively in the classroom and how their behaviour relates to pupils’ engagement remain unanswered. The present study aims to validate a theoretical model linking effective pre-service teaching behaviour and pupil’s engagement, incorporating the role of context and teacher characteristics. The study included a sample of 264 pre-service teachers from 64 secondary schools throughout the Netherlands. Pre-service teachers were observed using the International Comparative Analysis of Learning and Teaching to measure effective teaching behaviour and pupils’ engagement. We used multilevel modelling to account for the hierarchical structure in the data. Results show that the quality of teaching behaviour of pre-service teachers is below that of experienced teachers. Class size and (partly) teacher gender explain differences in the quality of teaching behaviour. All domains of teaching behaviour are related to pupil engagement, with classroom management and clarity of instruction showing the strongest relationships with academic engagement compared to the other domains. The results make it plausible to approximate minimum standards for the assessment of pre-service teachers based upon a normative criterion based on the impact on pupils’ academic engagement.