Examining learning in work-integrated learning (WIL) courses is complex. WIL traverses work and university spaces, which can be challenging for the way student learning is conceived, planned, supported, assessed and reported. This study strengthens our understanding of how students learn on placement by going directly to the source and observing learning unfold, in situ. Using an ethnographic methodology, this study adopts Schatzki’s (1996, 2010) practice-based lens to illuminate how students learn to embody and accomplish their assigned tasks on WIL placement. Findings suggest that students initially learn through performing an intermediary cluster of practices that enable them to orient, adapt and conform to new configurations of people, things, spaces, tools, bodies and technologies. These temporary transitioning placement practices are distinctive to WIL and take their shape within social practice arrangements. The study offers empirical evidence to ground and theorize learning for WIL curricula and support an emerging, materially-significant and entangled conception of learning on placement.