With the wide availability of Pre-trained Language Models (PLMs), multi-task fine-tuning across domains has been extensively applied. For tasks related to distant domains with different class label sets, PLMs may memorize non-transferable knowledge for the target domain and suffer from negative transfer. Inspired by meta-learning, we propose the Meta Distant Transfer Learning (Meta-DTL) framework to learn the cross-task knowledge for PLM-based methods. Meta-DTL first employs task representation learning to mine implicit relations among multiple tasks and classes. Based on the results, it trains a PLM-based meta-learner to capture the transferable knowledge across tasks. The weighted maximum entropy regularizers are proposed to make meta-learner more task-agnostic and unbiased. Finally, the meta-learner can be fine-tuned to fit each task with better parameter initialization. We evaluate Meta-DTL using both BERT and ALBERT on seven public datasets. Experiment results confirm the superiority of Meta-DTL as it consistently outperforms strong baselines. We find that Meta-DTL is highly effective when very few data is available for the target task.
Pre-trained language models have been applied to various NLP tasks with considerable performance gains. However, the large model sizes, together with the long inference time, limit the deployment of such models in real-time applications. One line of model compression approaches considers knowledge distillation to distill large teacher models into small student models. Most of these studies focus on single-domain only, which ignores the transferable knowledge from other domains. We notice that training a teacher with transferable knowledge digested across domains can achieve better generalization capability to help knowledge distillation. Hence we propose a Meta-Knowledge Distillation (Meta-KD) framework to build a meta-teacher model that captures transferable knowledge across domains and passes such knowledge to students. Specifically, we explicitly force the meta-teacher to capture transferable knowledge at both instance-level and feature-level from multiple domains, and then propose a meta-distillation algorithm to learn single-domain student models with guidance from the meta-teacher. Experiments on public multi-domain NLP tasks show the effectiveness and superiority of the proposed Meta-KD framework. Further, we also demonstrate the capability of Meta-KD in the settings where the training data is scarce.