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Joseph Lancaster. Theorist Presentation Kristine L. Watkins Wilkes University ED 530 – Utilizing Technologies to Improve Learning Dr. Richard W. Clark. Joseph Lancaster. (1778 – 1838) Founder of the monitorial system of education and a pioneer of teacher education. Background.

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joseph lancaster

Joseph Lancaster

Theorist Presentation

Kristine L. Watkins

Wilkes University

ED 530 – Utilizing Technologies to Improve Learning

Dr. Richard W. Clark

joseph lancaster1
Joseph Lancaster

(1778 – 1838)

Founder of the monitorial system of education and a pioneer of teacher education.

  • Born 1778 in Southwark, London.
  • 1801 founded an elementary school for the poor that soon housed thousands of boys.
  • Devised the monitorial system.
  • 1803 wrote Improvements in Education.
  • 1808 school floundered financially and he saw the creation of “The Society for Promoting the Lancasterian System for the Education of the Poor.”
  • 1811 Royal Lancasterian Society was established as a trust for the school’s funds.
  • 1818 started the first model school in Philadelphia.
  • Later started schools in Baltimore, Canada, Mexico, all of which suffered from financial problems.
  • 1838 Died from injuries sustained from being run over by a horse and carriage.
  • Only one Lancasterian schoolroom, built to the exact specifications of Lancaster himself, remains in the world. It is at the British Schools Museum in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.
lancaster s school
Lancaster’s School
  • Free elementary school
  • Developed simultaneously with those of Dr. Andrew Bell.
  • Quickly enrolled thousands of boys.
  • Method of instruction and delivery was recursive.
lancaster s school1
Lancaster’s School
  • He was unable to pay assistants, so he devised the monitorial system.
  • As one student learns the material he is rewarded for successfully passing on that information to the next pupil. This method is commonly known as peer tutoring.
  • Mechanical methods used were drill and recitation and an elaborate scheme of rewards and punishments.
lancaster s school2
Lancaster’s School
  • He encouraged and trained his best students to become schoolmasters.
  • Because of these efforts he is recognized as a pioneer of teacher education in England, where traditionally teaching had been left to clergymen.
lancaster s school3
Lancaster’s School
  • Thriftless, impulsive, and undisciplined, Lancaster allowed his school to flounder financially.
  • A group of Quakers paid his debt and rescued the school.
  • Lancaster continued to have financial problem with schools he opened in Canada, Mexico, and United States.
lancaster s ideal classroom
Lancaster’s Ideal Classroom

“The ideal classroom (hall) would be a parallelogram, the length about twice the width. The windows were to be six feet from the floor. The floor should be inclined, rising one foot in twenty from the master's desk to the upper end of the room, where the highest class is situated. The master's desk is on the middle of a platform two to three feet high, erected at the lower end of the room. Forms and desks, fixed firmly to the ground, occupy the middle of the room, a passage being left between the ends of the forms and the wall, five or six feet broad, where the children form semicircles for reading.”

  • In 1803 Lancaster wrote Improvements in Education which described in detail his system.
  • In 1821 published a small book entitled The Lancasterian System of Education which was a reprint of his first pamphlet with the addition of a petulant account of his chronic illness, poverty, and misfortune.
criticism of lancasterian schools
Criticism of Lancasterian Schools
  • Standards where poor.
  • Discipline to which the children were subjected was harsh – Lancaster rejected corporal punishment, but misbehaving children might find themselves tied up in sacks or hoisted above the classroom in cages.
  • He had a fall out with “The Society” after colleagues discovered that Lancaster had been privately beating a number of the boys with which he worked.
joseph lancaster2
Joseph Lancaster

Even though this system of teaching was considered a failure, it did much to pave the way for future educational endeavors in the realm of public education. Fine-tuning in the way of more competency in the teaching ranks and a smaller teacher-student ratio was on the way.


(2009). Monitorial system. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Ediger, M. (1987). The Lancastrian Monitorial System of Instruction. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Lancaster, Joseph. The Lancasterian System of Education ... (Baltimore, 1821), pp. 7-11.