Conceptions of learning are an important element of a student’s make-up. As Vermunt (1998) argued, they are one of the learner’s attributes associated with his or her approach to learning. While we can expect someone’s subject knowledge to matter, the impact of misconceptions in subject knowledge is often relatively localized. Thinking that electricity comes from one terminal of a battery, through the wire to a bulb where it is consumed will tend to matter in the topic of electricity but learning about sound, light, erosion or the causes of the Great War is not likely to be adversely affected. Conceptions of learning, however, are more fundamental and may underpin whole areas of learning behaviour. For instance, if students in mathematics see learning as memorization of procedures and algorithms, these become their learning goals across mathematics as a whole. If a teacher has the same view, the activities, the questions and the accepted answers are also likely to reflect that. This is not to say that memorization and procedural facility are useless or unnecessary but understanding is more than these and can be of greater value. Different conceptions of learning could produce different approaches to teaching and learning. The difference between those who think memorization is all that matters and those
who think understanding is what counts is likely to be very apparent. Learners, however, could agree that understanding counts yet disagree on what it is. In this event, learning goals may differ in subtle ways.