SLaM: Student-Label Mixing for Distillation with Unlabeled Examples

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Vasilis Kontonis, Fotis Iliopoulos, Khoa Trinh, Cenk Baykal, Gaurav Menghani, Erik Vee


Knowledge distillation with unlabeled examples is a powerful training paradigm for generating compact and lightweight student models in applications where the amount of labeled data is limited but one has access to a large pool of unlabeled data. In this setting, a large teacher model generates "soft" pseudo-labels for the unlabeled dataset which are then used for training the student model. Despite its success in a wide variety of applications, a shortcoming of this approach is that the teacher's pseudo-labels are often noisy, leading to impaired student performance. In this paper, we present a principled method for knowledge distillation with unlabeled examples that we call Student-Label Mixing (SLaM) and we show that it consistently improves over prior approaches by evaluating it on several standard benchmarks. Finally, we show that SLaM comes with theoretical guarantees; along the way we give an algorithm improving the best-known sample complexity for learning halfspaces with margin under random classification noise, and provide the first convergence analysis for so-called ``forward loss-adjustment" methods.