An interpretive methodology was employed to examine interrelations between teacher and student actions in a context of teaching and learning in an urban high school in Australia, a teacher of 20 years' experience, and a Grade 11 chemistry class. Data sources included teacher and student interviews, direct observation and videotapes of 4 weeks of lessons, and responses to a classroom environment survey. Three narratives were constructed for a typical lesson, the perspectives of the teacher, and the perspectives of a composite student. These narratives were used to describe what happened and communicate what we learned from the study. Initially, the teacher and students had difficulty describing their beliefs; however, as the study progressed they used language to describe their practices and construct mental models that fit with their practices and beliefs about learning. Teacher and student goals, beliefs about teacher and learner roles, and constructions of the context were coherent to such an extent that there was little impetus for change. These findings are discussed in terms of the difficulties of initiating and sustaining reform when the teacher and students are satisfied with what is happening and other sociocultural factors tend to support the status quo.