Alfie Kohn is an outspoken critic of homework and points out its potential detriments. In a piece published in Education Week in 2006 he cites a concern, "any theoretical benefit of practice homework must be weighed against the effect it has on students’ interest in learning." Certainly homework is a great way to practice content but if students get frustrated by it they will opt not to continue in their studies or attempt to get answers/assistance through unseemly means.
In my own practice I have tried to allow homework to become a tool for feedback instead of a tool for a grade. At first I tried assigning homework (no more than 20 minutes a night) that was not mandatory and reviewing the answers the next day. Unfortunately, because so many students are focused on their grades they prioritized work for other classes and did not complete the homework. So I changed my practice and began checking it for effort and crediting it to their participation. I saw a marked increase in completeness but am unsure how many of them are working on it themselves versus taking it from other students.
I am still developing my thoughts on the subject of homework but cannot see the benefit of requiring homework to be turned in and graded on a regular basis aside from making the teacher crazy. A summary of a few research studies was unable to conclude any particular benefits, aside from noting certain groups may get more out of homework than others (interestingly, students of low-income background benefit less).
Now, the question is how to put this into practice better? How does one argue with the status quo of homework when inertia is so evident?