Dr. Patrick McGreevy, a renowned figure in the field of applied behavior analysis, has a rich history that spans over five decades. His journey began in the late 1960s when he stepped into a public-school classroom as a teacher of children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The materials provided to him and the teaching procedures to which he was exposed in graduate school seemed inadequate for these children, which led him to seek out more functional materials and more effective teaching procedures.
This marked the beginning of his lifelong dedication to improving the lives of individuals with moderate-to-severe disabilities through applied behavior analysis and precision teaching. I had the pleasure of being one of his graduate students at the Florida Institute of Technology and remain connected to him to this day.
In the early part of his career as a teacher and behavior analyst, McGreevy was drawn to practical applications for children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities, especially those with severe forms of self-injurious and aggressive behavior. He was particularly interested in functional skills that resulted in an improved quality of life. This interest was fueled by his experiences in the classroom, where he quickly realized that the materials and teaching procedures available at the time were not sufficient for teaching these children and adults.
Later in his life, he married into a family with two children, one of whom, Kristin, had Down Syndrome. And from then on, until she passed way from a congenital heart condition, he experienced teaching and behavior analysis as a consumer, as well as a professional practitioner.
From the beginning of his teaching career, McGreevy focused on functional, life skills and innovative teaching procedures. He realized that traditional teaching materials and procedures were not effective for the children with whom he was working. This led him back to where he had completed his master's program, which had included the guidance of Hazel Turk, the head teacher at The University of Iowa Pine School. There, he attended and later audited classes taught by Paul Retish, a new faculty member, whose experience included many children and adults with severe disabilities. The next year he was invited to teach Hazel Turk’s class for a summer session. This experience further solidified his commitment to developing and teaching functional, life skills to children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities.
In 1972, he was invited by Ogden Lindsley, a student of B. F. Skinner’s, to become one of his doctoral students at Kansas University. From there, began his interest and contributions to the field of Precision Teaching, which Lindsley pioneered. McGreevy was drawn to the data-driven approach of Precision Teaching, which emphasizes the direct, standard measurement of behavior to inform instructional decisions.
McGreevy's educational journey is equally impressive. He received a Ph.D. degree in Education from Kansas University, under the guidance of Ogden Lindsley, an M.A. degree in Special Education from the University of Iowa, under the guidance of Hazel Turk and Paul Retish, and a B.S. degree in Psychology also from the University of Iowa. During his formal education and thereafter, his work was heavily influenced by Paul Retish, Ogden Lindsley, Wes Becker, Eric Haughton, Robert Pirsig, Stephen Jay Gould, Jack Michael, Eb Blakely, Vince Carbone, and the thousands of children and adults with whom he has worked.
Patrick McGreevy is known for his contributions to Precision Teaching, including Teaching and Learning in Plain English, an introduction to Precision Teaching, and The Journal of Precision Teaching and Standard Celeration Charting, which he founded and served as first editor. Later, he was honored by the Standard Celeration Society with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
Patrick McGreevy is best known for his work in developing, with Troy Fry, the Essential for Living curriculum, assessment, and teaching manual. Essential for Living (EFL) is a functional, life skills instrument designed to guide the instruction of children and adults with moderate-to-severe disabilities, including those with autism and those with limited or no voluntary movement, those who are deaf and blind, and those with severe and multiple impairments.
EFL is unique in its approach. Unlike other curricula and teaching manuals, it is not referenced to typical child development or academic standards. Instead, its north star is quality of life. Also, unlike other curricula, it is not a checklist; it requires ‘a deep dive’ into the Essential Eight Skills and an effective and efficient method of speaking. EFL also encourages the recording of small increments of progress. McGreevy also incorporated specific elements of Precision Teaching into EFL, namely, dimensional quantities of behavior (rather than percent), first opportunity probes, and teaching to fluency.
You can learn more about the Essential for Living curriculum you can read here, or you can even check out our introductory course here.