The article describes qualitative variation in micro processes of learning, focusing the dynamic interplay between conceptions, expressions and meanings of expressions in students' learning in higher education. The intentional-expressive approach employed is an alternative approach to the function of language use in learning processes. In the empirical investigation, a dialogue model was used that both stimulates and documents students' ways of processing meaning. Results were grouped into three descriptive categories: vague, stabilising and developing ways of processing. Educational implications include, firstly, two distinct types of vague constitution of meaning in learning: one connected to fragmentary relationships between expressions and meanings, and another that triggers and creates close relationships and changes in relationships. Secondly, the categories display different unexplored ways of processing, related to deep and surface approaches in students' learning.