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In mainstream cognitive research, ‘formal concepts’ usually serve as the main unit of analysis for investigating students’ conceptual learning. Accordingly, conceptual understanding is often seen as a capacity to take an already acquired formal concept and transfer it intact to a new situation, by recognising structural commonalities and using analogy. We use our research into how pre-service (student) teachers design lessons to show that their capacity to use concepts in real world professional work cannot be understood as a simple transfer of formal concepts to new situations. Rather, actionable conceptual understanding, or concepts that are used in action, involve a capacity to construct situated conceptualisations dynamically: by selecting, projecting, mapping and blending relevant conceptual features with material and symbolic affordances of the encountered situation into one emerging multimodal construct that becomes a part of an embodied action. Extending conceptual and material blending (Fauconnier & Turner, 1998; Hutchins, 2005), we show that construction of multimodal blends serves as a productive unit of analysis for investigating conceptual learning for professional action.