Making Pre-trained Language Models Better Few-shot Learners

ACL 2021  ·  Tianyu Gao, Adam Fisch, Danqi Chen ·

The recent GPT-3 model (Brown et al., 2020) achieves remarkable few-shot performance solely by leveraging a natural-language prompt and a few task demonstrations as input context. Inspired by their findings, we study few-shot learning in a more practical scenario, where we use smaller language models for which fine-tuning is computationally efficient. We present LM-BFF--better few-shot fine-tuning of language models--a suite of simple and complementary techniques for fine-tuning language models on a small number of annotated examples. Our approach includes (1) prompt-based fine-tuning together with a novel pipeline for automating prompt generation; and (2) a refined strategy for dynamically and selectively incorporating demonstrations into each context. Finally, we present a systematic evaluation for analyzing few-shot performance on a range of NLP tasks, including classification and regression. Our experiments demonstrate that our methods combine to dramatically outperform standard fine-tuning procedures in this low resource setting, achieving up to 30% absolute improvement, and 11% on average across all tasks. Our approach makes minimal assumptions on task resources and domain expertise, and hence constitutes a strong task-agnostic method for few-shot learning.

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