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Cultural Resonance in Special Education

The concept of cultural resonance

The concept of cultural resonance in a social context is quite vague. Despite its wide use in literature and discussion, there is no single definition of this term. In a broader sense, it conveys the idea of personal importance that the audience finds in the message. The goal of this paper is to discuss the application of this phenomenon to special education of the high school level in mathematics.

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The idea of cultural resonance

The idea of cultural resonance appears in social science literature in different forms depending on the subject it is applied to. In their study of the concept, researchers suggested the following definition of the term, “the moment when discourses align with the worldviews of their audiences” (McDonnell, Bail, & Tavory, 2017, p.1). Thus, in the context of high school education, cultural resonance can be defined as an educational discourse that appeals to the personal interests of a student to motivate the studying process.

Using in special education

Cultural resonance can be used in special education in multiple ways and might help stimulate the motivation of students and encourage them. Studies have shown that motivation has a significant impact on academic performance (Schulte & Stevens, 2015). Using techniques and approaches that resonate with students is especially relevant in mathematics because many people struggle to find personal importance in the subject due to its abstract nature. The presence of cultural resonance helps teachers encourage students’ engagement in the discussion, which would help develop a personal approach to each student. It is very unlikely for an education program without cultural resonance to be effective. If a teacher fails to find an approach that addresses the interests of students, they may struggle to understand the personal relevance of the subject and lose motivation, especially when faced with difficulties. Although all students are different, it is crucial for a teacher to constantly look for what they are passionate about, because no education system can succeed without continuous efforts to promote cultural resonance. Thus, it is hard to imagine a successful special education program if cultural resonance is absent.

The promotion of cultural resonance

The promotion of cultural resonance might be especially helpful in the field of special education, where an individual approach to students is a key element. It is important to keep students motivated to maximize their achievements. Creating materials and tasks that resonate with the students might significantly increase their interest in the subject, which will encourage them to put more effort into studying.


  1. McDonnell, T. E., Bail, C. A., & Tavory, I. (2017). A theory of resonance. Sociological Theory, 35(1), 1-14.
  2. Schulte, A. C., & Stevens, J. J. (2015). Once, sometimes, or always in special education: Mathematics growth and achievement gaps. Exceptional Children, 81(3), 370-387.

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