I have noticed that a major cultural difference between my Russian students and myself is the general attitude toward cheating. Because of my culture, personality, and the way I was raised, I have a gut feeling that tells me cheating is fundamentally wrong, and I don't cheat because of it. My students don't understand this feeling and were genuinely shocked when I mentioned it. I haven't yet met a Russian student who understands why cheating is such a big deal for me. They understand that there are certain situations where you need to be more careful about cheating because of the consequence that you might get expelled from the school or university, but it's the fundamental "gut" issue that my students and I don't see eye-to-eye on.
In my struggle to understand their point of view, I have asked many questions and been exposed to a variety of "techniques" for cheating. Students have learned how to cheat intelligently -- They have to know enough to know if what they are copying is worthwhile. And I have learned that unless it's ridiculously obvious, cheating is not even worth mentioning. The students don't seem to feel guilty about cheating - it's just everyday life. They know what I want to hear and will tell me, but they don't understand my association of cheating and guilt/shame. For example, I had three (adult) students who were making up a test they missed. I did not have time to be in the same room as them but would walk by every once in a while. I knew that they were working together rather than alone and thought about not saying anything because I understand that Russian culture doesn't have an issue with cheating, but I finally decided to let my students know that I wanted them to try and work alone. One of the students looked at me, and said, "Yes, of course. We know that this is a test of our own knowledge." Yet, even after this response, all three students missed the same questions and got the same grades on the exam. Obvious cheating. There was at least some creativity in that not all of the written answers were copied word for word. Of course, these were overall good students, and I didn't want to fail them, so I let it slide. What do you do? When in Rome, do as the Romans ... right? This is what the English text books keep telling the students, and I am trying to adapt and do the same myself without sacrificing who I am as an individual and a person.