The US Air Force uses a formal deliberate process called Instructional System Development (ISD) to design, develop, plan, implement, manage, and evaluate instructional programs and systems. While there has been some evolution in ISD as a process, its goal remains largely unchanged as a way for the US Air Force to develop effective and efficient education and training for personnel to perform their jobs. ISD is a continuous quality improvement process. The ISD model is comprised of a series of functions (management, support, administration, delivery, and evaluation) and phases (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation) integral to instructional development. It incorporates behavioral and cognitive learning theories and principles. ISD results in alternative solutions to instructional problems which may be more or less cost-efficient, depending on the instructional need and environmental constraints. It is also predicated on the belief that a systems approach, involving choosing among alternative solutions, produces the most effective results.

The US Air Force has begun a paradigm shift from a traditional approach in its continuum of learning (education, training, and experience) to a redesigned one that is outcomes-based. This new paradigm for education can create agility within the ISD process. It is a learner-centric approach, which allows airmen to get the training they need, rather than an entire program. It is also focused on competency-based learning whereby airmen get credit for training for which they have already demonstrated a mastery and to concentrate on what they actually need to learn.