This article discusses the way in which social identities structure the learning processes of students in two subjects in the Dutch secondary school curriculum - Care and Technology. It analyses interviews with 23 students and their teachers with a view to explaining the disappointing results in these subjects in terms of breaking through gender and class-related preferences and learning outcomes. The subjects Care and Technology refer to social practices with which groups of students identify in different ways. On the other hand, students also appear to make active use of these subjects in their identity development. The authors argue for explicitly combining the notion that learning is peripheral participation in social practices with analyses of the power relationships that structure those practices. Also, the question should be addressed of how the relative autonomy of the school can be used for organizing learning experiences in such a way that the constraints of social position and identity are reduced, and the restrictive character of social identities is challenged.