How Stacking Technique Boosts  Machine Learning Model’s Performance

How Stacking Technique Boosts  Machine Learning Model’s Performance

Welcome to the exciting world of Stacking technique in machine learning!

Imagine having a few tools to solve a problem - stacking lets us use them all at once, often giving us even better solutions. 

In a nutshell, the stacking technique uses various machine learning models predictions as features to build the model. The build model will be used for the final predictions. This technique is part of Ensemble learning.

Ensemble learning combines multiple individual models to achieve better predictive performance than the individual models alone. Stacking is one of the most commonly used methods in ensemble learning, which combines multiple models using a metaller.

In this friendly guide, we’re going to get to know stacking a bit better. We will explore the concept of stacking and how it can be used to improve the performance of machine learning models. Stacking is a powerful technique that can improve model accuracy and reduce overfitting.

How Stacking Technique Boosts  Machine Learning Model’s Performance

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Think of it like a team strategy for problem-solving models - but instead of just adding up their efforts, there’s an extra layer of smart decision-making on top, thanks to a special player known as a meta-learner. Together, we'll explore the wonderful world of stacking, seeing how it can make our models even smarter and more accurate. 

So, let’s dive into stacking and find out how it gives that extra push to make machine learning models perform even better!

What Is Ensemble Learning?

Ensemble Learning Methods

Machine learning has transformed the field of data analysis by offering strong tools for extrapolating conclusions and making predictions from data. But choosing the right algorithm and feeding it data isn't enough to create reliable and accurate machine learning models. 

The creation of an ensemble by combining multiple models is a crucial step in developing successful machine learning models.

Ensemble learning combines multiple individual models to produce predictions that are more accurate than those produced by the individual models alone. Due to its capacity to increase model accuracy and decrease overfitting, this technique has experienced tremendous growth in popularity in the machine learning community. 

By combining multiple models, ensemble learning can achieve better predictive performance than the individual models alone.

Ensemble learning can be achieved through several techniques, such as

Each technique has its unique approach to combining models to create an ensemble.

What Is Stacking In Machine Learning

Stacking is one of the most commonly used techniques in ensemble learning, which involves combining multiple models using a meta-learner to achieve better predictive performance. The idea behind stacking is to take advantage of the strengths of individual models and create a more accurate and robust model by combining them.

In the stacking technique, multiple base models, each with its own set of features, are combined to create a model that is more accurate and reliable. The meta-learner or meta model, which is trained to predict the target variable, uses the predictions made by the base models, which were trained on the training data in stacking, as input features.

The meta-learner can be any machine learning model, such as a support vector machine, neural network, or linear regression model. Developing the capacity to combine the predictions from the base model to make accurate predictions on new data is the goal of the meta-learner.

How Stacking Technique Work?

How Stacking Technique Work?

The stacking process can be broken down into four main steps:

  1. Data Preparation: The first step in stacking involves dividing the data into training and testing sets. The training set is used to train the base models, and the testing set is used to evaluate the performance of the stacked model.
  2. Building Base Models: The second step involves selecting a set of base models and training them on the training set. Each base model is trained on a subset of the training data and uses a different set of features.
  3. Building Meta Model: The third step involves building a meta-learner model that takes the predictions of the base models as input features and predicts the target variable. The meta-learner is trained on the training set, using the predictions of the base models as input features.
  4. Combining Base and Meta Models: The final step involves combining the predictions of the base models and the meta-learner to make a final prediction. The base models are used to make predictions on the test set, and these predictions are then used as input features for the meta-learner, which makes the final prediction.

Implementing Stacking In Python

An effective method for enhancing the performance of machine learning models is stacking. You can lessen overfitting and raise the precision and robustness of your models by combining the predictions of various models. 

The implementation of stacking can be difficult and time-consuming, requiring careful data preparation and numerous iterations of model training and evaluation. 

We'll examine the stacking implementation process from data preprocessing to base model building to meta-model building to model combining for predictions.

Data Preparation

Before building any models, it's important to properly prepare your data. This includes tasks such as cleaning and pre-processing your data, as well as splitting your data into training and testing sets. 

In stacking, you'll also need to split your training data further into multiple folds, which will be used to train each of the base models.

Here’s an example for the same using California Housing Dataset

Building Base Models

The next step is to build multiple base models using the training data. The goal is to create a diverse set of models that will make different types of predictions based on different aspects of the data. 

Some common base models used in stacking include

Building Meta Model

Once you have trained the base models, the next step is to build a meta model, also known as a meta-learner (meta model). The meta model takes as input the predictions made by each of the base models on the validation data, and outputs a final prediction for each observation. 

The meta model can be any machine learning algorithm that can take these predictions as input and make a final prediction, such as linear regression or neural networks.

Combining Base and Meta Models

Finally, once you have trained the base models and the meta model, you can combine them to make predictions on new data. To do this, you'll first use the base models to make predictions on the testing data. Then, you'll use these predictions as input to the meta model, which will output a final prediction for each observation.


  • MSE on validation set: 0.2954

This code is an example of how to implement a simple ensemble method using stacking with three base models and a meta-model to predict house prices on the California Housing dataset.

First, the California Housing dataset is loaded using the fetch_california_housing function from sklearn.datasets. The data is then split into training, validation, and testing sets using the train_test_split function from sklearn.model_selection.

Next, three base models are initialized:

  • RandomForestRegressor with 10 estimators, 
  • KNeighborsRegressor with 5 neighbours, 
  • LinearRegression model. 

The models are then fitted on the training data using the fit method.

Base model predictions are generated on both the training and validation data using the predict method. These predictions are then combined into meta-features using the column_stack method from numpy.

A Ridge regression model is initialized as the meta-model with an alpha value of 0.5. The meta-model is then fitted on the meta-features and the target variable using the fit method.

The meta-model's predictions are generated on the validation set using the predict method, and the mean squared error between these predictions and the true target values is calculated using the mean_squared_error function from sklearn.metrics. 

Finally, the mean squared error is printed to the console.

Different Types of Stacking Methods in Machine Learning

Stacking technique enables data scientists and machine learning practitioners to combine multiple models, aiming to leverage their collective power to achieve superior predictive performance. 

While stacking is often heralded for its ability to enhance model accuracy and stability, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Various methods, each with their distinctive strategies and applications, fall under the umbrella of stacking.

Different Types of Stacking Methods in Machine Learning

Let’s explore several prominent types of stacking methods, delving into their mechanics, use-cases, and intricacies.

1. Simple Stacking

Simple stacking is the most straightforward method wherein predictions from various base models are stacked together and used as input features for a meta-model. The meta-model, subsequently, makes the final prediction.

  • Base Models: These are various diverse machine learning models, which can be of different types (like decision trees, SVMs, etc.) that are trained using the original input features.
  • Meta-model: It learns how to optimally combine the predictions of the base models to make a final prediction. It is trained using the predictions of the base models as features.

Simple stacking can be particularly useful when you have models with varied predictive powers, enabling the meta-model to learn how to weigh the input from each model based on their reliability.

2. Cross-Validation Stacking

In cross-validation stacking, the training set is split into ‘K’ folds, and the base models are trained K times on K-1 folds, predicting the left-out fold each time. These out-of-fold predictions for each model are stacked and used as features for the meta-model.

  • K-Fold Cross-Validation: This ensures that every observation from the original dataset has the chance of appearing in the training and test set. This is important as it ensures the robustness of the model.
  • Reduced Overfitting: As the meta-model is trained on out-of-fold predictions, it is less prone to overfitting.

Ideal in scenarios where model stability and generalization are crucial, since using out-of-fold predictions for training the meta-model helps in reducing overfitting.

3. Stacked Generalization

Stacked generalization involves training the meta-model to focus on instances where the base models tend to go awry, thereby optimizing the collective predictive power by covering for each model’s weaknesses.

  • Error Focus: The meta-model is trained in a way to correct the errors made by base models, by giving more weight to instances where base models make incorrect predictions.
  • Diversity in Base Models: Utilizes a range of base models, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, ensuring a comprehensive coverage across various data patterns.

Best used in situations where different models have distinct and non-overlapping weaknesses, ensuring that the stacking generalization effectively mitigates individual shortcomings.

4. Multi-Level Stacking

Multi-level stacking involves having multiple layers of stacking, wherein the predictions from one layer of meta-models are used as inputs for the next layer, forming a hierarchical structure.

  • Multiple Layers: More than one layer of meta-models enables learning from various levels of abstraction, capturing more complex patterns in the data.
  • Hierarchical Learning: Lower layers capture basic patterns, which are gradually synthesized into more sophisticated insights in higher layers.

Suited for complex problems where single-level stacking is insufficient to capture all the underlying patterns and nuances within the data.

These methodologies illustrate that stacking in machine learning is not a monolithic technique but a spectrum of strategies each tailored to different needs and scenarios. By understanding the distinctive properties of each type, practitioners can adeptly navigate through diverse challenges, optimizing their models for various predictive tasks.

Advantages of Using Stacking Technique

Stacking can enhance predictive performance, lessen overfitting, and offer flexibility in model choice by utilizing the advantages of various algorithms. 

In machine learning, this method is becoming more and more well-liked and has been successfully used in a variety of fields, including finance, healthcare, and natural language processing.

Improved Predictive Performance

Stacking allows us to combine the predictions of multiple base models and improve the overall predictive performance of the final model. The idea is that each base model captures different aspects of the data, and combining them can result in a more accurate prediction. 

This is especially useful when dealing with complex datasets where no single model can capture all the nuances of the data.

Reduced Overfitting

Overfitting occurs when a model is too complex and captures noise in the data rather than the underlying patterns. Stacking can help reduce overfitting by combining the predictions of multiple base models and creating a more generalized model. 

In addition, we can use cross-validation to train and test the model, which helps in selecting the best hyperparameters and preventing overfitting.

Flexibility in Model Selection

Stacking allows us to use different types of models as base models, which gives us more flexibility in selecting the best models for a given dataset. 

For example, we can use tree-based models like Random Forest or Gradient Boosting, as well as linear models like Linear Regression or Logistic Regression.

We can also use different algorithms like K-Nearest Neighbors or Support Vector Machines, and even deep learning models like Neural Networks. By combining the strengths of different models, we can create a more robust and accurate final model.

Model Interpretability

One potential disadvantage of stacking is that the final model may be less interpretable than the base models. This is because the final model is a combination of multiple models, and it may not be clear how each base model contributes to the final prediction.

However, this can be addressed by using model-agnostic interpretability techniques like SHAP values or Partial Dependence Plots. These techniques can help us understand the importance of each feature in the final prediction, regardless of the type of model used.

Limitations of Stacking Method

While stacking has many benefits, it also has some drawbacks. Increased complexity in implementation and interpretation is one of the main drawbacks. 

Especially for large datasets or complex models, stacking can be computationally demanding and necessitates careful tuning of numerous hyperparameters. 

Furthermore, because the stacked model's final predictions rely on interactions between the base models and the meta-model, doing so can be challenging. Finally, stacking might not always be the best option because some issues might be solved more successfully by bagging or boosting rather than stacking.

Increased Complexity

Stacking involves combining multiple models, which can lead to an increase in model complexity. With each additional model, the overall complexity of the stacked model increases, making it harder to interpret and understand the results. This can make it difficult to identify the source of any errors or issues that arise.

Computational Requirements

Stacking requires a significant amount of computational power and resources to train and evaluate multiple models. This can be a challenge for organizations with limited resources or computing infrastructure. Furthermore, the increased complexity of the stacked model can also lead to longer training times, which can be impractical in certain settings.

Risk of Overfitting

Stacking is not immune to overfitting, and in fact, it can be more susceptible to overfitting than individual models. This is because the stacked model is trained on predictions from multiple models, which can increase the risk of overfitting if the models have a high degree of correlation.

As a result, it is important to carefully tune the hyperparameters and regularization of the individual models and the meta-model to minimize the risk of overfitting.


By combining the advantages of various base models, stacking is a potent technique that can enhance the predictive performance of machine learning models. It has a number of benefits, including improved model selection flexibility, decreased overfitting, and improved predictive accuracy. 

Stacking has drawbacks as well, such as higher model complexity, computational demands, and the potential for overfitting if not done carefully. 

To sum up, stacking is an effective method for enhancing the effectiveness of machine learning models. Before implementing this strategy in practice, it is crucial to carefully weigh its benefits and drawbacks. 

We can utilize the power of stacking to create more precise and dependable predictive models by comprehending the benefits and drawbacks of stacking and putting best practices, such as careful model selection, regularization, and cross-validation, into practice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) On Stacking

1. What is Stacking in Machine Learning?

 Stacking is an ensemble learning technique that combines predictions from multiple models to improve the predictive performance of a final meta-model.

2. How does Stacking enhance the performance of Machine Learning models?

 By leveraging the strengths of multiple models and combining their predictions, stacking often achieves higher predictive accuracy than individual models.

3. What is a base model and meta-model in stacking?

 Base models are the various individual models that make initial predictions. The meta-model, or the blender, is trained to make final predictions based on the outputs of the base models.

4. Which algorithms can be used as base models in stacking?

 Virtually any machine learning algorithm can be used as a base model. Common choices include Decision Trees, Support Vector Machines, and Neural Networks.

5. What algorithm is commonly used for the meta-model?

 Logistic Regression is widely used, but other algorithms like Random Forest, Gradient Boosting, or even another stacking model can also be used as a meta-model.

6. Is stacking suitable for both regression and classification problems?

 Yes, stacking can be adapted for both regression and classification problems by selecting appropriate models and aggregation strategies.

7. How do we prevent overfitting in stacking?

 Techniques like cross-validation, training with sufficient data, and avoiding overly complex base models help mitigate overfitting in stacking.

8. How is stacking different from other ensemble methods like bagging or boosting?

 Unlike bagging and boosting that use specific strategies to train models (resampling and weighting, respectively), stacking focuses on combining predictions from diverse, often independently trained models through a meta-model.

9. What are the computational considerations for stacking?

 Stacking can be computationally intensive as it involves training multiple base models and a meta-model, so it's vital to consider hardware capabilities and potentially employ parallel processing.

10. How do you select models for stacking?

  Ideally, base models should be diverse, meaning they have different structures or are trained on different data, to ensure varied predictions and avoid echoing errors.

11. How to handle different prediction scales or types while stacking?

  Ensuring predictions are on a comparable scale or transformed appropriately is crucial to effectively train the meta-model, especially when combining regression and classification models.

12. Does stacking always improve model performance?

  While stacking often enhances performance by reducing bias and/or variance, it does not guarantee improvement and might sometimes introduce complexity without significant gains.

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