There are many ways to identify instructional goals, but 4 common methods that come to mind are:
The subject matter expert (SME) approach: Often contain words such as know and understand with regard to content information. This approach to the teaching learning process assumes that students need to learn what the SME know and emphasizes the communication of information from instructor to student in the instructional process.
The content outline approach: There may be convincing evidence that a performance problem exist, but an assumption is frequently made that the cause of the problem is that students in a potential student group have no learned the right type or amount of content.
The administrative mandate approach: Goals selected by mandate can be valid if appropriate planning and insight were exercised by the administrator on whose authority the training will happen, or if an instructional designer can exercise political savvy and negotiating skills to confirm or redirect goals after the fact.
The performance technology approach: Performance technology in which instructional goals are set in response to problems or opportunities within an organization.
References: Dick, W., Carey, L., & Carey, J. (2005). The Systematic Design of Instruction. Boston: Pearson.