Abstract Teachers categorizing of students profoundly affects the educational process and can subvert open teacher–student communication and create a vicious circle of student's lack of support and academic failure. In this article we use data from a Change Laboratory intervention in a senior secondary school in order to study the possibilities of changing the way teachers construct students as objects of their work and overcoming this vicious circle. We analyze categorization as a form of thinking based on empirical generalization and conceptualize its opposite as a dialectical process of constructing individual students' specific potentials and learning problems as the object of teachers' work. For this the teachers' need new kinds of tools that mediate the teacher–student interaction in a way that supports teachers' and students' mutual learning and support. Previous studies have shown a number of steps that are necessary for such a remediation of the teacher–student interaction to take place. In this study, we test and elaborate these observations.