monitorial system, method of elementary education devised by British educators Joseph Lancaster and Andrew Bell during the 19th cent. to furnish schooling to the underprivileged even under conditions of severely limited facilities. It was sometimes called the mutual or Lancasterian system. All students met in one room, with about 10 students and one monitor to each bench. The monitors, older and better students, were instructed directly by the teacher and in turn instructed the other pupils. It was often assumed that the monitors would eventually become teachers. This system, which might involve several levels of monitors, used elaborate programs of reward for good deportment and scholarship, supplemented by punishment based on "shame rather than pain." The success of the monitorial system stimulated interest in education for the poor.
See J. Lancaster, The Lancasterian System of Education (1821) and The Practical Parts of Lancaster's Improvements and Bell's Experiments (ed. by D. Solmon, 1932); C. Kaestle, Joseph Lancaster and the Monitorial School Movement (1973).