Use Role-plays and Case Studies in the Classroom

Classroom Resources

With its connection to National Curriculum Standards, DECA’s Competitive Events Program is designed to be integrated into classroom instruction to help members apply learning and connect to business. As teaching tools, DECA’s role-plays and case studies provide relevant, meaningful problems for students to solve, provide a standards-based evaluation, increase rigor of the instruction, result in evidence of student learning and expose students to DECA – all as part of classroom instruction.

Role-plays and case studies provide a student-centered engagement activity to help DECA members apply learning through problem-based activities that require creative solutions and practical outcomes. DECA’s role-plays and case studies challenge DECA members to demonstrate industry-relevant knowledge and skills through performance indicators, while also developing important 21st Century Skills – creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communications.

Each role-play and case study supports a specific career cluster and primary instructional area that is identified at the top of the first page of the event. DECA’s role-plays and case studies are developed through industry research to reflect current issues and trends in business and industry. The role-play and case study scenarios are connected to performance indicators – key concepts from national curriculum standards that students should learn during the school year. DECA members are challenged to develop a solution that incorporates the performance indicators relevant to the specific role-play or case study.

DECA uses seven lists of performance indicators – business administration core, business management and administration, entrepreneurship, finance, hospitality and tourism, marketing and personal financial literacy. Each performance indicator list is arranged by instructional areas to assist advisors with planning units of instruction.

As you teach different instructional areas during the year, you can use corresponding role-plays and case studies as learning tools. While the traditional competitive event setting requires interaction with judges and specific timing, many advisors have used role-plays and case studies in a variety of instructional methods.

Warm-up activities and classroom discussions
Begin the class by asking students to read the role-play or case study and develop a solution. Engage the class in a meaningful discussion around various solutions. Ensure that each performance indicator is discussed.

Provide the role-play or case study to your students to review and develop ideas individually. Then group students in pairs and have each student play the role of the participant and play the role of a judge. After one round, you can encourage the students to find a different partner when serving in the other role. Then expand the sharing into a classroom discussion.

Writing exercises
Provide the scenario to your students and ask them to write their ideas for solving the problem presented in the role-play or case study. You may also ask that they develop their solution in a slide deck and provide more information in the notes section of each slide.

Public speaking exercises
Provide the scenario to your students and ask them to deliver an oral presentation or recorded video that presents their ideas for solving the problem presented in the role-play or case study. You can ask your students to use the evaluation from when they are watching the oral presentation or recorded video. This not only requires students to deliver a solution, but also encourages students to evaluate their peers – a powerful activity when sitting on the “other side” as the judge.

Assessment tools in lieu of a multiple-choice quiz/test
Use a role-play or case study as a written or oral assessment. Since the evaluation form for each role-play and case study assesses the performance indicators, you are assessing students’ performance according to national curriculum standards which are industry validated and aligned to career clusters.

DECA’s exams are rigorous, industry-validated, multiple-choice, 100-item exams based on National Curriculum Standards. Each exam item is also linked to an instructional area and specific performance indicator defined in the exam’s descriptive key, which also includes a rationale for the correct and incorrect answers, rigor level and source. The descriptive key provides an informative and instructional narrative about each exam item.

You may also group exam items by instructional area and use them along with a role-play or case study with a corresponding instructional area. Exam items can make great bell ringer activities and short quizzes while preparing DECA members for competition.

HINT: Exam items representing the same instructional area are usually grouped together in the sample exams. Use the abbreviation in the descriptive key; for example: CO represents Communications and the number that follows is its unique identifier in the performance indicator list. Search the exact identifier (i.e. CO:016) in the performance indicator list linked to that exam.


Related Resources


Contact DECA staff
for more information.

Christy Rutherford
Education Manager