TL;DR: Inspired by human peer learning and motivated by complexity considerations we study ensemble learning as a peer process.
Abstract: Ensemble learning, in its simplest form, entails the training of multiple models with the same training set. In a standard supervised setting, the training set can be viewed as a 'teacher' with an unbounded capacity of interactions with a single group of 'trainee' models. One can then ask the following broad question: How can we train an ensemble if the teacher has a bounded capacity of interactions with the trainees? Towards answering this question we consider how humans learn in peer groups. The problem of how to group individuals in order to maximize outcomes via cooperative learning has been debated for a long time by social scientists and policymakers. More recently, it has attracted research attention from an algorithmic standpoint which led to the design of grouping policies that appear to result in better aggregate learning in experiments with human subjects. Inspired by human peer learning, we hypothesize that using partially trained models as teachers to other less accurate models, i.e.~viewing ensemble learning as a peer process, can provide a solution to our central question. We further hypothesize that grouping policies, that match trainer models with learner models play a significant role in the overall learning outcome of the ensemble. We present a formalization and through extensive experiments with different types of classifiers, we demonstrate that: (i) an ensemble can reach surprising levels of performance with little interaction with the training set (ii) grouping policies definitely have an impact on the ensemble performance, in agreement with previous intuition and observations in human peer learning.