The use, value, and effectiveness of homework has been a long debated topic. Homework serves a number of purposes. What becomes a point of contention is the difference in opinion regarding the purpose. The primary rationale for homework tends to lean towards practicing what has been introduced in class or reading content to prepare for the next day's lesson.
The use of homework as a method to check for understanding or assess student understanding is not effective. How students complete their homework can vary with the availability of tutors or crowd sourced answers. Even the standard process of homework review is flawed. I have observed countless classes in which the opening of the lesson goes like this, "Take out your homework. Does anyone have any questions or problem with any of the questions?" This then transitions to a whole class lesson in which a few problems are reviewed based on a choral response to the teacher's question.
Proponents of the flipped classroom have turned the table on this approach by having students view recorded lectures or read instructional content for homework. When the students return to class they are provided opportunities to apply what they learned. The instructor facilitates this application of knowledge, checking in on students, and providing small group instruction when necessary.
I believe their is value in homework for those who need it. I propose making homework optional. A better approach for teachers to ensure understanding is to begin class with a question. A skillfully designed question or question set that provides the instructor with immediate feedback regarding student understanding. The results of which may guide the lesson towards moving forward or reviewing the previous topic. This type of assessment must provide aggregate and individual data. Using fingers or ABCD cards is a low tech option to a posed question. Class clickers, cell phones or learning management systems provide high tech solutions that can quickly aggregate results.
By implementing formative assessment at the start of the end of a lesson we can move away from "who does not understand?", and transition to "let's take another look at ......, it seems to be challenging"