Aref Jafari


2022

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Pro-KD: Progressive Distillation by Following the Footsteps of the Teacher
Mehdi Rezagholizadeh | Aref Jafari | Puneeth S.M. Saladi | Pranav Sharma | Ali Saheb Pasand | Ali Ghodsi
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

With the ever growing scale of neural models, knowledge distillation (KD) attracts more attention as a prominent tool for neural model compression. However, there are counter intuitive observations in the literature showing some challenging limitations of KD. A case in point is that the best performing checkpoint of the teacher might not necessarily be the best teacher for training the student in KD. Therefore, one important question would be how to find the best checkpoint of the teacher for distillation? Searching through the checkpoints of the teacher would be a very tedious and computationally expensive process, which we refer to as the checkpoint-search problem. Moreover, another observation is that larger teachers might not necessarily be better teachers in KD, which is referred to as the capacity-gap problem. To address these challenging problems, in this work, we introduce our progressive knowledge distillation (Pro-KD) technique which defines a smoother training path for the student by following the training footprints of the teacher instead of solely relying on distilling from a single mature fully-trained teacher. We demonstrate that our technique is quite effective in mitigating the capacity-gap problem and the checkpoint search problem. We evaluate our technique using a comprehensive set of experiments on different tasks such as image classification (CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100), natural language understanding tasks of the GLUE benchmark, and question answering (SQuAD 1.1 and 2.0) using BERT-based models and consistently got superior results over state-of-the-art techniques.

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Continuation KD: Improved Knowledge Distillation through the Lens of Continuation Optimization
Aref Jafari | Ivan Kobyzev | Mehdi Rezagholizadeh | Pascal Poupart | Ali Ghodsi
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Knowledge Distillation (KD) has been extensively used for natural language understanding (NLU) tasks to improve a small model’s (a student) generalization by transferring the knowledge from a larger model (a teacher). Although KD methods achieve state-of-the-art performance in numerous settings, they suffer from several problems limiting their performance. It is shown in the literature that the capacity gap between the teacher and the student networks can make KD ineffective. Additionally, existing KD techniques do not mitigate the noise in the teacher’s output: modeling the noisy behaviour of the teacher can distract the student from learning more useful features. We propose a new KD method that addresses these problems and facilitates the training compared to previous techniques. Inspired by continuation optimization, we design a training procedure that optimizes the highly non-convex KD objective by starting with the smoothed version of this objective and making it more complex as the training proceeds. Our method (Continuation-KD) achieves state-of-the-art performance across various compact architectures on NLU (GLUE benchmark) and computer vision tasks (CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100).

2021

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Annealing Knowledge Distillation
Aref Jafari | Mehdi Rezagholizadeh | Pranav Sharma | Ali Ghodsi
Proceedings of the 16th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Main Volume

Significant memory and computational requirements of large deep neural networks restricts their application on edge devices. Knowledge distillation (KD) is a prominent model compression technique for deep neural networks in which the knowledge of a trained large teacher model is transferred to a smaller student model. The success of knowledge distillation is mainly attributed to its training objective function, which exploits the soft-target information (also known as “dark knowledge”) besides the given regular hard labels in a training set. However, it is shown in the literature that the larger the gap between the teacher and the student networks, the more difficult is their training using knowledge distillation. To address this shortcoming, we propose an improved knowledge distillation method (called Annealing-KD) by feeding the rich information provided by teacher’s soft-targets incrementally and more efficiently. Our Annealing-KD technique is based on a gradual transition over annealed soft-targets generated by the teacher at different temperatures in an iterative process; and therefore, the student is trained to follow the annealed teacher output in a step-by-step manner. This paper includes theoretical and empirical evidence as well as practical experiments to support the effectiveness of our Annealing-KD method. We did a comprehensive set of experiments on different tasks such as image classification (CIFAR-10 and 100) and NLP language inference with BERT-based models on the GLUE benchmark and consistently got superior results.

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How to Select One Among All ? An Empirical Study Towards the Robustness of Knowledge Distillation in Natural Language Understanding
Tianda Li | Ahmad Rashid | Aref Jafari | Pranav Sharma | Ali Ghodsi | Mehdi Rezagholizadeh
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Knowledge Distillation (KD) is a model compression algorithm that helps transfer the knowledge in a large neural network into a smaller one. Even though KD has shown promise on a wide range of Natural Language Processing (NLP) applications, little is understood about how one KD algorithm compares to another and whether these approaches can be complimentary to each other. In this work, we evaluate various KD algorithms on in-domain, out-of-domain and adversarial testing. We propose a framework to assess adversarial robustness of multiple KD algorithms. Moreover, we introduce a new KD algorithm, Combined-KD, which takes advantage of two promising approaches (better training scheme and more efficient data augmentation). Our extensive experimental results show that Combined-KD achieves state-of-the-art results on the GLUE benchmark, out-of-domain generalization, and adversarial robustness compared to competitive methods.