I'm answering this from the perspective of the student, and I don't have any citations, only my own experiences...
Most of the courses I've taken have been laissez-faire. The basic setup has been 7 weeks of lectures that I don't have to attend if I don't feel like it, recommended reading (sections so and so in the book) and recommended exercises to solve (nothing to hand in), and then in the 8th week, an exam to determine my grade.
Many courses have offered the option of doing things during those 7 weeks to gain bonus points for the exam. Maybe hand in some exercises, maybe do some sort of project using the skills taught in the course. This is generally good; those who don't have the time or motivation can ignore it with no ill effects, and the others can do the extra work, retain more knowledge and thus score better on the exam, in addition to the bonus points.
A few courses have had compulsory activities during the 7 weeks. This has generally been bad. A lot of the students are not used to having deadlines "mid term", and end up planning poorly, and end up with a lower grade than they'd get if everything was tested in the final exam. Those who plan well end up doing more work for the same knowledge. Some courses really need this though, and for those courses, it's worth the trouble. Examples might be when the course is fairly "hands on", not very theoretical, and you really need to have the students "do the dirty work" to know what it's like.
One course had compulsory assignments to be handed in every 2 weeks, and did not require the final exam to get a passing grade. This particular course was very much "hands on"; the theoretical content was mostly repetition of earlier courses. The exam was only required for higher grades, and those grades were only obtainable for students who had done well on the assignments. This set up is well suited to this type of course, but I wouldn't ever want it if the focus is the theory.
As you can see, most of my experience is with laissez-faire, and perhaps that means I'm biased, but I strongly prefer it to pressure-driven teaching.
The reason is simple: People are different, and applying pressure will favor those who like the particular form of pressure that you apply. For everyone else, the pressure is distracting at best, painful at worst. If you let the students do as they wish, they will have to figure out how they learn best, gaining both important insights about themselves and others, and also the important life skill of taking the reins and taking responsibility.