Calls for renewal of physics education include more varied learning activities and increased focus on qualitative understanding and history and philosophy of science (HPS) aspects. We have studied an innovative approach implementing such features in quantum physics in traditional upper secondary physics classrooms in Norway. Data consists of 11 focus groups with 58 participants from 11 physics classes, collected in 2013–2016 and analyzed thematically. Using the the implied student (Ulriksen, 2009) as an analytical lens, we study the experiences of actual physics students against the student “implied” by the innovative approach. The findings suggest that students struggled where the new approach holds implicit expectations that differ greatly from how students are expected to “do physics” in traditional classrooms. For example, students found it difficult to monitor their performance in the absence of calculations and factual answers. However, students easily adopted visualizations as a new tool for reaching the familiar goal of content knowledge. HPS aspects motivated students, but were not necessarily seen as learning goals in their own right. There is a need for better alignment between learning activities, learning goals and assessment in innovations, and for making implicit expectations explicit so that students know what “doing physics” successfully entails.