Text Size

Module 5: Learning Communities—Building Excitement, Sharing Learning

Learning objectives


Action steps and tools

Learning objectives

  • Apply key principles of effective learning communities to PCMH transformation
  • Build a collaborative team to develop a PCMH learning community
  • Plan and implement effective learning sessions and action periods
  • Identify structures and practical activities that support learning communities



Participating in a learning community is way that both practice coaches and primary care practice team members can develop themselves personally and professionally to best support practice transformation. Participants in learning communities actively share information and experiences in order to learn from each other. Learning communities reinforce improvement efforts within a practice, promote rapid testing of good ideas, and enhance practice facilitation to accelerate practice transformation.

Experience from the Bureau of Primary Health Care Health Disparities Collaboratives and similar initiatives that employed learning communities shows that learning communities are most effective when they:

  • Create a culture of participation, collaboration and respect
  • Provide a clear structure and adequate resources
  • Use proven quality improvement technologies
  • Enable communication via facilitation, leadership, and communication technology

Learn more about the key principles of learning communities and how to promote them by reading the facilitator’s guide for this module and applying the tools below.

Action steps and tools

Action step Tool

Planning a learning community

Learning Community Planning Questions
Considerations prior to getting started, including working with the resources you already have, getting senior leader buy-in, and building infrastructure.

Memorandum of Understanding
From the Improving Chronic Illness Care Program, this document describes agreement between parties, indicating an intended outcome.

Tips for Success: Working with Community Partners
Thoughts from experts in the field on benefits and challenges of the learning community environment, as well as suggested venues for state and local level partnerships. From thought leaders Darren DeWalt, Pat Bricker, and Bob Gabbay.

Getting started with a learning community

Example Getting Started Kit
Includes information collaborative sites need prior to the first learning session (change package, team instructions for activities and information on measures) with research references. Developed by Washington Department of Health and the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, in their work in the Washington Patient-Centered Medical Home Collaborative.

Aims and Goals Worksheet
To help you address what you intend to accomplish, as well as the method(s) and timeline. From the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).

Sample Team Aim Statement
An example with initial description of the work, proposed aims and expected outcomes to use as a guide for the team.

Project Team Charter Template
Outlines team function, defines how you will measure and achieve success, and declares each member’s commitment to the team goals. This can guide you as you create your own charter. Courtesy of the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers.

Sample PCMH Team Charter
From IHI, this example can be used as a template. It contains aims, current state, focus, boundaries, and timeline.

Roles in a Breakthrough Series Collaborative
Details planning group, staffing, faculty, and other roles. Developed for IHI's Breakthrough Series Collaboratives and relevant to other learning communities as well.

Creating effective learning sessions

Example Virtual Learning Session Agenda
With fields for objectives, roles, and other organizing materials, this document can serve as a template for creating your own agenda.

Project Planning Form with Examples
A template, with separate examples outlining changes, responsibilities, and timeline for asthma and depression.

National Quality Center Game Guide
Includes 21 games organized around five quality improvement concepts: data and measurement, systems, developing changes, testing and making changes, and cooperation. Each game description contains the learning objectives, resources, instructions, tips on handling potential pitfalls, and key discussion points to link the activity with QI teachings.

Making the most of your momentum

Sample Webinar Faculty Agenda
An example from IHI suitable for template use with “minute by minute” fields for time, function/task, responsibility, and notes.

Project Assessment Scale
Provides information on how to assess team progress. Derived from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Assessment Scale for Collaboratives.

Tips for Success: Webinars and Virtual Learning Sessions
The popularity of virtual meetings requires a big shift in the approach you take to learning sessions. Explains key differences and outlines some challenges that may arise.

Humboldt Patient Partners Toolkit
Tools and lessons learned by a pioneer collective through the Robert Wood Johnson Aligning Forces for Quality initiative. Emphasizes working well with patients to achieve improved outcomes.


Additional resources

Working together: Collaborative boosts quality in safety net clinics

Collaborative Planning and Organization from IHI

Breakthrough Series: IHI’s Collaborative Model for Achieving Breakthrough Improvement (white paper)