Back in France I had a few teachers handing back exams in order from the highest grade to the lowest grade, and I recall there was some tense suspense, especially for for the people at the bottom of the stack. Is there any point in handing back exams ordered by grade? Assume there is no online platform to release grades.
No good reasons, only tradition (this is how we've always done it) and sadism (the poorer scoring students should be shamed into doing better). In the US, these days, at the college level at least, it also might now also be considered bordering on a FERPA violation by some. If you announced that the grades were returned in score order, but didn't reveal an actual number, you might get a pass, but I bet you'd get a lot of complaints. If you announced the scores as you did it, you'd definitely be in violation.
When I was a student, some twenty years ago, there were two common ways to release grades after a written exam:
- putting a notice on a board along the university corridors;
- gathering all the students in a classroom and calling them one by one to the desk.
In the first case, the order on the notice was typically alphabetical. In the second, the order of the calls was frequently by grade, especially when written tests were followed by an oral examination to be started soon after the release of the grades. In this case, the motivation was probably that of practicality: it's easier to draw the boundary line between those who have to take the oral examination and those who failed.
A funny note: I recall an exam in which the professor listed first those who passed the exam, and I wasn't there; then he listed those who failed the exam... and I wasn't even there; lastly, he added minaciously: and then there's Ortolano...
I often sort essays by the grade so I can do a final check on the distribution and the consistency of the marking. We return essays through the school office, so the order does not matter. If I was handing them out to the class, for them not to be in grade order, I would have to introduce a random shuffle. Throughly shuffling 200+ essays would take a little time, likely in the critical 10 minutes before the start of class. That said, I would probably do it.