I usually have a good instructor-class relationship, but I am also an admittedly easy instructor - in previous classes my assessments have been on the easy side of fair. This term I have set very high expectations for my class and the class is doing exceedingly well. I am very impressed by their progress and their learning and professionalism is showing very clearly. Unfortunately, the students aren't as happy as I'd like them to be. I am getting the feeling that I've encouraged excellence through fear, and I'm cultivating frustration. Students who were expecting an easy class are instead being challenged more than in previous years, and the workload is considerable.
I would like to continue setting these expectations for my students, since I think the learning and progress is worth it. However, I also feel very strongly that the students should like and trust the instructor. What are some strategies I can use to increase student satisfaction while also maintaining very high standards?
I should note a few things:
I'm asking this in general, but the current class I'm talking about is a required course that students in this major have historically not seen as being relevant. I am working to increase the relevance to their discipline.
I have communicated to the students that I'm very happy with their progress and very impressed by it.