Literature on the related notions of 'teaching for understanding' and 'exemplary teaching' tends to be interpreted as prescribing certain classroom approaches. These are usually the strategies often identified with constructivist teaching, which involve a redefinition of the teacher's role: rather than being seen as a source of knowledge and control, the teacher is described as the facilitator of a largely student-directed search for understanding. More 'transmissive', teacher-centred approaches are held to lead to poor student understanding, low cognitive engagement and rote learning. This paper reports a case study of physics teaching in a government high school in Perth, Western Australia. This case study is part of a larger project spanning 5 years and eight case investigations in Perth schools. While the pedagogical style of the teacher studied could be labelled as 'transmissive', we tentatively assert that his practice exemplified high-quality physics teaching and led to high-quality understanding on the part of the students. The study suggests that prescriptions for quality teaching must be sensitive to issues of context and content, and that further study in a variety of school contexts is required to expand our understanding of what constitutes good teaching and learning in physics.