Teachers are key actors who shape the learning environment and one of their main tasks is to motivate students to learn. Teachers can differ in the way they try to motivate students and their motivational practices can vary from autonomy-supportive to controlling. The present study explored how teachers’ personal beliefs and contextual pressures related to their selfreported autonomy-supportive or controlling motivational practices. Nine grade-six teachers at schools with varying student populations were interviewed. Based on their practices, two clusters of teachers were distinguished, teachers who mainly reported autonomy-supportive practices and teachers who mainly reported controlling motivational practices. For the more autonomy-supportive teachers, their practices aligned well with their personal beliefs and preferences, whereas some of the more controlling teachers would actually prefer more autonomy-supportive practices. Underlying reasons for more controlling teaching practices were mainly contextual pressures. Pressures from above such as national standards or high stakes testing were mentioned, but especially pressures from below, referring to negative perceptions of students’ abilities, behaviour, background characteristics or motivation, were reasons for more controlling


student motivation; learner autonomy; teacher beliefs; teaching practices; at risk students;

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