A Student Guide to Mastering DECA's Role-plays

Oct 1, 2021

Let’s Talk About Performance Indicators

Whether this is your first year or your fourth year as a DECA member you probably know the term “performance indicators.” You’ve heard your advisor mention them, you’ve seen them on decadirect.org, you’ve read them on sample events – but what are performance indicators and why are they so important?

What are performance indicators?

In business and industry, key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical criterions of progress toward an intended result. KPIs align to a goal and are measurable.

In DECA, performance indicators are specific knowledge and skills that students are expected to address and perform through competition. They represent the current, actual skills and knowledge needed by employees in the workplace, and members who can demonstrate these performance indicators are sought after by employers.

For example, one performance indicator is “Write professional emails.” Employers expect their employees to be able to communicate via e-mail in a professional manner and according to the company’s standards. Your role-play may include your manager asking you to prepare a training on effective communications skills for new employees. During the role-play, you may need to explain to the judge (your manager) how to “write professional emails” by describing that employees should use complete sentences, ensure the message is grammatically correct and error free, and use an appropriate, descriptive subject.

Why Are Performance Indicators Important?

In most of your classes, you have assignments, exams, projects and papers. The work you do likely has a rubric, or scoring guide, that helps your teachers grade your work. Think of a rubric as a blueprint of what you should include in your work to earn a satisfactory, or even exceptional grade.

In DECA competitions, the judges use the performance indicators to evaluate you and determine your score! You should use the performance indicators provided in your role-play to develop your solution, because your judge will evaluate how you addressed the performance indicator when presenting your solution to the challenge. And the cool part – you have access to all the performance indicators in advance!

How Are Performance Indicators Organized?

The performance indicators that DECA uses are first grouped by career cluster. There are performance indicators lists for business management and administration, marketing, finance, hospitality and tourism and entrepreneurship.

Within each of these career cluster lists there are instructional areas. Instructional areas are broad topics that encompass a lot of specific skills. Examples of instructional areas include: customer relations, economics, financial analysis, marketing, promotion and selling.

Performance indicators are specific skill statements within each instructional area. For example, in the economics instructional area, there are 45 performance indicators! Here are a few:

  • Explain the principles of supply and demand
  • Explain the concept of competition
  • Describe factors that affect the business environment

The performance indicator lists are industry-validated and aligned with National Curriculum Standards. Not only are you learning about specific performance indicators in the classroom, but the performance indicators are also used in all workplace industries!

When you compete, you receive the performance indicators that are used on the judge’s evaluation form before you see the judge. This means you know what the judge will be looking for in your presentation!  Looking over the list of performance indicators and making sure you correctly reference all of them in your event will likely ensure a higher score.

In your competition, it is important to not only define the performance indicator, but to tie it into the scenario. If one of the performance indicators is “Explain the concept of competition,” you should not only define competition, but perhaps also discuss potential competitors and their effects as it relates to the solution for the scenario. This will prove your understanding of the terms and your ability to apply it in a career-related scenario.

How Do Performance Indicators Relate to My Event?

If you are competing in Principles of Business Administration, Personal Financial Literacy, Individual Series or Team Decision Making events, here is additional information about the performance indicators.

Principles of Business Administration – Each event has four performance indicators and all four of them will be from the same instructional area.

Team Decision Making – Each event has seven performance indicators. At least four of them will be from the same instructional area. The other three can be from any instructional area. None of them will be from the pathway list.

Individual Series – Each event has five performance indicators. These events are special and include additional performance indicators in a career pathway list. The career pathway has unique skills needed for specific jobs. For example, when competing in Hotel and Lodging Management Series Event, the career pathway is Lodging pathway. A performance indicator in the Pricing instructional area in the Lodging pathway is: “Explain considerations in hotel/lodging room pricing.” At least three performance indicators will be from the same instructional area and at least one will be from the career pathway.

Personal Financial Literacy – This event has three performance indicators and all three will be from the same instructional area. The list of Personal Financial Literacy performance indicators is produced by Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and can be found here.

Bonus: All the role-play events also have performance indicators tied to 21st Century Skills. These remain constant on the evaluation form for each type of event. They evaluate your critical thinking, problem solving, communication and creative abilities in the role-play.

What Are Some Tips for Competition?

  • Read the performance indicators and think about what each one means
  • As you read the scenario, make notes on where in the scenario the performance indicators pop up or could pop up in your presentation
  • Take time to gather your ideas and form your solution
  • Use your scratch paper and pencil to write an outline of your presentation, ensuring you not only define the performance indicators but tie them directly to your solution to the scenario

In preparation for district-level competition, you can view the list of instructional areas being used in the principles, team decision making and individual series events here. Once you know the instructional area, find it on the competitive events page by clicking on the individual events.

Make yourself familiar with all performance indicators in the instructional area. If you are in an individual series event, also find your career pathway list and familiarize yourself with those performance indicators.

Bonus: Performance indicators are also extremely useful in studying for the career cluster exams. Each question on the exam is linked to a specific performance indicator. The questions are written to determine if you understand the performance indicator – another reason why they are important and why you need to study them!

Confidence in performance indicators will translate to confidence in your role-play event!


Randi Bibiano
Competitive Events Specialist

Randi Bibiano is DECA's competitive events specialist. In this role, she conceptualizes and authors role-play scenarios for the collegiate and high school division’s competitive events programs. She also manages DECA's online competitive events and serves as a liaison to volunteer efforts at DECA's educational conferences.

Discussion Questions

  • 1
    What is the difference between an instructional area and a performance indicator?
  • 2
    Why is it important to address all of the performance indicators listed on the competitive event when presenting your solution to the judge?
  • 3
    What are five strategies you can use to master performance indicators for competition preparation?
  • 4
    How does learning specific DECA performance indicators translate to preparation for a career?

Classroom Connection

Career CLuster:

Instructional Area(s):

Performance Indicators:

Demonstrate problem-solving skills
Demonstrate active listening skills
Organize information
Participate in group discussions
Utilize resources that can contribute to professional development
Explain performance indicators addressed in the role-play activity