As you read this I am at Residency for my MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. There's no question the faculty and mentors in my program give the students a lot of good information about writing. We also have sessions where we critique others work and have our work critiqued in turn. Therefore, there's also no question some of the students have learned a lot and some of the students' writing have vastly improved.
I tell you a secret though: I am not one of those students. I think this is because I've been working very hard for over a decade to be a better writer. I read lots of non-fiction writing books. I analyze lots of novels, trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. A huge turning point for me was joining a local writers group: Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I've been going to their free (with membership) classes and workshops for years. I have a great critique group that helps me a lot. I've also been going to the annual conference for years, first attending workshops, and now teaching them. Thus, I've learned more working independently and with my local writers group than I've learned in my MFA program. So, I have mixed feelings about formal writing programs at colleges and universities. I'm not sure they're effective for everyone.
What do you think? What's the best way to learn to be a better writer?